Kim Se-yeon, a three-term lawmaker of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), called for a bold personnel reform of the party, including resignation by the party leadership. However, the party leadership seems unswayed. LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn said he would resign if the party loses the general elections next year while Floor Leader Na Kyung-won drew a line by saying, “It’s more important to stop fast-track bills at the moment.” Some senior lawmakers even criticized Kim, saying, “Kim’s comment on the ‘LKP being harm to the history and a zombie’ is like ‘cutting off your nose to spite your face.’” Kim’s call for reform seems to be triggering hidden conflicts among different factions in the party, rather than unfolding as the rectification movement at the party level.
The LKP has still stuck in the image of a so-called “well-being party” since the impeachment of the former president. The climate to simply earn a position in the National Assembly by winning the nomination right is wide-spread, rather than pursuing change and transformation. The dignity of the party members is hard to find and even conservative supporters are made nervous by the LKP members using harsh language so frequently. Such a situation is caused by the fact that the party is still dominated by multi-term senior lawmakers who have been enjoying vested rights in the conservative-leaning regions and politicians with strong factional characteristics who joined the party under the Park Geun-hye administration.
LKP Chairman Hwang who is in the position to lead a bold personnel reform by putting his own position on the line is so outdated as to have filled the general elections planning committee with his close associates, which was in a stark contrast to the Democratic Party of Korea that included non-mainstream, female, and young members in its general elections planning committee. The LKP seems to simply take advantage of the current sentiment against President Moon Jae-in, rather than finding ways to transform itself in line with the rapidly diversifying and changing society.
Of course, the unity of the LKP is critical regarding the handling of fast-track bills, such as election law, to be brought in for a regular session of the National Assembly in early December. However, this does not justify the ignoring of the call for the party’s reform. The LKP, which had a series of consecutive losses from the 20th general elections in 2016 and the presidential election in 2017 to the local elections last year, will be reduced to the “Yeongnam United Liberal Democrats” or lose its reason for existence unless the party demonstrates bold changes and personnel reform at the general elections.
Discussions on the conservative parties’ integration should not stop at the narrow concept of integration between parties. It should draw a big picture of integrating values, such as liberal democracy, the market economy, and strong security and diplomatic values. A transformation and reform should be achieved by disrupting the existing rules and efforts to embrace political moderates should be made leveraging this. Personnel reform, which includes dramatic shifts in nominations and running in “rough areas” will inevitably cause intense internal opposition. LKP Chairman Hwang and Floor Leader Na should put their own positions on the line to make much-needed breakthroughs.