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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 30)

All News 09:05 April 30, 2020

Opposition in tatters
Conservative party should change, innovate itself

The main opposition, the conservative United Future Party (UFP), is in a state of chaos as it has failed to install a new interim leader following its crushing defeat in the April 15 general election. A row over the appointment of Kim Chong-in, the former campaign chief, to lead the party hsas created the chaotic situation. This makes the reeling party's future murkier than ever.

The feud erupted after the UFP approved the nomination of Kim as head of the party's interim leadership committee during its National Committee meeting Tuesday. The problem is that the veteran politician has rejected the nomination because the party failed to guarantee him an extensive term.

Simply put, Kim has no intention of serving as an interim leader for only four months until the UFP convenes a national convention in August to elect a new leader in accordance with the party constitution. That's why he has called for a revision of the party's constitution so that he can lead the party at least until next spring. His aim is apparently is to influence the process of choosing the party's presidential candidate in the 2022 election.

But the party has failed to meet Kim's demand. Reports said that the UFP could not hold a Standing National Committee meeting to revise a party rule to push back the date of the convention this summer. The failure is a direct result of senior party members boycotting the meeting in order to bid for the party leadership in August.

Whatever the reason, the party, whose predecessor was the Saenuri Party led by impeached President Park Geun-hye, will remain rudderless and reeling from the election defeat. The UFP and its "satellite" party garnered only 103 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, compared with 180 seats won by the liberal ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and its affiliate.

The UFP is currently headed by its floor leader and acting party chief, Rep. Shim Jae-chul, after Hwang Kyo-ahn resigned from the chairmanship over the election loss. Selecting a new leader, interim or regular, is crucial in rebuilding the party and regaining the public's trust. Of course, it is doubtful that the interim leadership under Kim, even if installed, could normalize party operations by bringing about drastic change and innovation. But it is hard to understand why the UFP has run the risk of sinking into an abyss.

The reason is clear. Its party members, especially senior lawmakers, are still refusing to give up their vested interests, while engaging in old politics. They are putting their personal interests and political ambitions before the needs of the party, instead of advocating for true conservative causes. Internal fighting still persists between the pro-Park Geun-hye faction and the rest.

Without going beyond such dog-eat-dog factional strife and internal division, the UFP has no future. An opposition party is required to serve as a counterbalance to the stronger ruling party and the government. Thus the UFP should resolve the leadership dispute as soon as possible to ensure the country has democratic checks and balances. For this, it should change and innovate itself. Otherwise, it has no reason to exist.
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