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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 5)

All News 07:47 July 05, 2017

Reinventing conservatism
Hong should show he can change himself completely

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) elected former presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo as its new leader at the National Convention, Monday. Hong's election ended the six-month leadership vacuum at the former ruling party, which has reeled from the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye last December.

In his acceptance speech after the victory, the former provincial governor vowed to regain public trust by reforming the party drastically. But given the party's dire straits, it remains to be seen whether his promise can be translated into reality.

In fact, conservative forces, which led the country's phenomenal industrialization, are in their worst state. After the Constitutional Court confirmed Park's removal from power in March, the then-ruling Saenuri Party split into the LKP and the Bareun Party.

A Gallup Korea poll last week put the LKP's approval rating at an all-time low of 7 percent. Given that the party has 107 of the National Assembly's 299 seats, the approval rating is shameful. It is similar to the approval given to the minor liberal Justice Party, which has only six seats.

A bigger problem is that the second-largest party has been met with outright indifference and derision since the Choi Soon-sil scandal that eventually led to the first presidential impeachment. The result is: the party is failing to rally support even among the conservatives.

Now Hong is tasked with reinventing the party in crisis and drawing support from voters in local elections scheduled for next June. Toward that end, he reiterated his pledge to establish reform and ethics committees consisting of outsiders.

But what is needed first is for the prosecutor-turned-politician to show he can change himself completely. During the presidential election and the race to elect the party leader, Hong took a lot of flak for being foul-mouthed. As a result, he and his party have often been subject to mockery. Should this remain unchanged, rebuilding the conservatives will be all but impossible.

More important, surely, is that he must take the lead in reestablishing new conservative values conforming to the spirit of the times. These values refer to the rule of law, separation of legal, administrative and judicial powers, dedication and sacrifice to the nation and a fair market-driven economy.

Needless to say, Hong should do whatever he can to realize these values. In doing so, voters might be able to appreciate the conservative party's sincerity and provide it with another chance to be reborn so it can check the Moon Jae-in administration's unilateral moves.

To win the hearts and minds of the public, opposition parties might need to lend a helping hand to the ruling camp. A blind pursuit of "opposition for opposition's sake'' is no longer tenable.

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