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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on March 18)

2017/03/18 09:06

Conservatives in lethargy

Lopsided politics may blight national development

With the presidential election just about 50 days away, the conservatives have sunken into lethargy.

Former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was favored by conservatives when he returned home to start a campaign of his own, abruptly dropped out of the race just a few weeks in.

Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn, who led conservative candidates in support ratings though he had not declare candidacy, announced he would not run for president.

Their departure from the campaign scene has left a big hole in the conservative camp.

Undoubtedly, the crisis resulted from a nation-rocking scandal in which a friend of the now former president meddled in state affairs for personal gains.

To take a closer look at their problem, their crisis is rooted in arrogance, self-righteousness and obstinacy accumulated from two decades of conservative governments. The people have been frustrated at their deviations from true conservatism.

The latest poll showed liberal and centrist candidates in a comfortable lead.

Moon Jae-in, former leader of the liberal opposition Democratic Party of Korea, received 37 percent support; South Chungcheong Province Gov. An Hee-jung of the same party received 16.8 percent; Ahn Cheol-soo, former leader of the centrist opposition People's Party, received 12 percent and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party received 10.3 percent.

Their combined ratings reach 76.2 percent.

In contrast, on the conservative front the rating for South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, who is expected to run on the ticket of the conservative ruling Liberty Korea Party supportive of former President Park Geun-hye, marked 7.1 percent.

Rep. Yoo Seong-min and Gyeonggi Province Gov. Nam Kyung-pil, both of the Bareun Party, a splinter group that broke off from the Liberty Korea Party and is critical of Park, received 4.8 percent and 1.8 percent, respectively.

The combined rating of the three amounts to only 13.7 percent, about a fifth of that of liberal and centrist candidates.

All the supporters of Hwang did not move to the conservative bloc after his announcement that he would stay out of the race.

Of them, 28.1 percent turned to liberal and centrist candidates -- no small portion.

There is nothing to wonder about when it comes to people flocking to opposition candidates. They have become sick and tired of the incompetence and irresponsibility of Park and her loyalist lawmakers.

But the collapse of a party that champions the values of conservatism is not desirable to the development of a nation.

Though the conservative camp is divided and disordered presently, conservatism is unquestionably an asset to Korean society. The stable balance of liberalism and conservatism is an essential element of a healthy nation, just as it takes a left wing and a right wing both to fly.

The political spectrum should not become so polarized that one side is able to exclude the other without compromise.

Policies for the sake of the entire nation are hard to come by from a lopsided political landscape controlled by either side.

Unchecked power on an uneven playing field will stifle healthy partisan rivalry on important issues.

Election results in a situation where one side overwhelms the other will likely fail to adequately reflect the popular will and endanger representative democracy.

The slanted relation between the left and the right will also destroy checks and balances against each other and cause extreme confrontations.

Ironically, even as the odds appear to be stacked against candidates from the Liberty Korea Party, nine members of the party have announced their candidacy despite their ratings being near zero.

What conservative politicians lack the most now is self-sacrifice. Those who should make way for new faces and new leadership are trying to stand their ground for personal or political gains. To pull together disentangled conservatives, they should stand back.

The Liberty Korea Party and Bareun Party should shed the selfishness of their individual members and search out ways to revive conservatism for the nation.