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LKP’s dangerous fall

Feb 20,2019
The opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is being battered by the public ahead of a national convention slated for Feb. 27 to pick its new leader. The people are increasingly turning a cold shoulder to the embattled party because of the inundation of insults and slander among candidates for party leadership. At the third speech session in Daegu — Korea’s conservative center — candidates even had trouble conveying their visions to party members in the face of violent language from ultraconservatives called Taegukgi Troops, who strongly support Rep. Kim Jin-tae, a far-right candidate for the chairmanship.

The group hurled intolerable insults at the party’s interim leader Kim Byong-joon when he appeared on stage. “Take down the commie!” they shouted. Kim referred two lawmakers of the party to the ethics committee for their denigration of the May 18 Gwangju Democracy Movement. We are dumbfounded by these ultra right-wing groups because they acted unreasonably as responsible members of the conservative party.

Slander and abusive language among candidates and remarks aimed at fueling regional sentiments are nibbling away at the integrity of the race for party leadership. A contender for the party’s supreme committee poured insults on President Moon Jae-in for “betraying the country” and “neglecting his duty as commander in chief.” Former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-an, a contender for the party chairmanship, denounced the Moon administration for “slashing budgets for Daegu and North Gyeongsang province,” the home of many Korean conservatives. He pleaded for strict judgment on the liberal administration’s overly stingy spending on North Gyeongsang.

We understand the criticisms of the government because they represent the opposition. But they should be based on facts. The candidates must present alternative policies to party members instead of recklessly attacking one another or trying to incite a certain province’s regional sentiments. They must not forget that such strategies are outdated and regressive, and go against the tide of the times. We are embarrassed to see them fully engrossed in a heated race of vulgar words instead of a competition for new visions and policy alternatives as the main opposition party.

A recent Realmeter survey shows it all. The approval rating of the LKP fell to 25.2 percent last week — a 3.7-percentage-point drop from two weeks ago — despite the expected “convention effect.” The conservative party faces a crisis as public support for the party is rapidly declining.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 20, Page 30