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No mea culpas

June 18,2018
First-term lawmakers of the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) held a press conference demanding its heavyweight politicians retire from politics following the party’s landslide defeat in local election and by-elections on Wednesday. They did not name any particular person, but pointed to “the seniors who should answer for the crumbling of conservatism over the last decade.” Who exactly are they referring to? Is this a time to search for a scapegoat when the conservative camp more or less has become a nonentity capable of securing a pitiful two seats out of 17 major gubernatorial and mayoral races?

The elections underscored the impotence of the LKP. It was the most humiliating defeat for any major political party in Korean history and yet we hear no mea culpas from the lawmakers with two or more terms under their belts. In fact, the first-term lawmakers are no different. There are 42 LKP members who joined the legislature in May 2016. What have they been doing over the last two years? They kept mum when their outspoken party chief was ruining the campaign with his unrestrained tongue. They must ask themselves whether they too had deluded themselves into thinking they are politically safe in a society with a traditional conservative backbone.

The LKP has never lost its sense of superiority, a habit of decades of rule. Many senior members on the ruling Democratic Party (DP) offered not to run in the 2016 election to make room for new faces. One of them was Choi Jae-sung, who won his fourth term from Songpa District B in Wednesday’s by-election. The DP even cut off close aides of President Moon Jae-in when nominating candidates for legislative elections. Moon’s closest confidants like Lee Ho-chul and Yang Jung-chul refuse to take up public office in fear of burdening the president.

The DP tried to reform when its existence was not in great danger. Since then, it has been reaping one victory after another. Such rigorous efforts were absent on the conservative front. There has been talk about collective resignation, but it was all talk.

Dissolving the party is no answer as long as the same figures continue playing politics with the same outdated manner and mindset. Leaders of the United States and North Korea have met and discussed a peace treaty, and yet the LKP talks of the threat of communization. Without serious soul-searching, Korea’s conservative front could be in a fatal downward spiral.

JoongAng Sunday, June 16-17, Page 34