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Ruling party considers shifting away from core conservative values

All Headlines 11:32 January 05, 2012

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) is pushing to change its conservative party platform to take a more conciliatory stance on North Korea and focus on economic justice, party officials said Thursday, in a bid to widen its appeal ahead of the April parliamentary elections.

The GNP's emergency council held a meeting and reached an agreement to change its hard-line stance on North Korea and market-friendly economic policies, officials said. It marks the first time in six years the party has sought to revise its policy principles.

"We reached an agreement to adopt a flexible stance on North Korea to prepare for reunification, while emphasizing the importance of national security," said Rep. Kwon Young-jin, an emergency council member, at a briefing.

The conservative party's move comes as North Korea's new leader Kim Jong-un has appeared to be consolidating power inherited upon the death last month of his father, Kim Jong-il. The two Koreas remain technically at war with each other since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

The council also discussed ways to solve the widening income gap and establish infrastructure for relatively weak smaller firms in a country whose economy is powered by large industrial conglomerates.

"The party will place emphasis on fair competition and economic justice to proactively deal with social polarization," Kwon said.

The proposed platform is an about-face from President Lee Myung-bak's growth-driven economic policies that have loosened regulations and cut taxes for businesses, as the struggling party has been seeking ways to shed its image for the rich and privileged.

The most contentious issue, however, was whether to remove the word "conservative" from the its principles.

Those who call for getting rid of the ideological term say the party should pursue more flexible policies that better reflect changing social trends, while opponents said conservative values are integral to the GNP.

For the proposal to take effect, it must gain a majority vote in the general session.

The latest move comes as Asia's fourth-largest economy is experiencing growing voter discontent with social and economic inequality prior to the April parliamentary and December presidential votes.


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