On Jan. 5, eight lawmakers who withdrew from the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party (BP) launched a new conservative party in Korea to form a right-wing party in pursuit of reforms. Tentatively named the New Conservative Party (NCP), it has spearheaded a new movement among politicians to guard new conservative values and make a lead on the April 15 parliamentary elections in opposition to major democratic parties. While increasing polarization in Korean politics, the creation of NCP has also highlighted concerns over President Moon’s democratic policies.
“I think the new party signaled an opportunity for conservatives to create a united front against the democrats,” said Amy Kim (12), Asian Studies student. “In fact, the NCP along with the Liberty Korean Party (LKP) and Advance On Party (AOP), have merged to form the United Future Party (UFP) in an effort to defeat the democrats in the general elections. The conservatives’ consolidation makes sense given that they had a strong hold on Korean politics before Saenuri, a once leading conservative party, fell apart with the impeachment of former President Park. After Moon’s election, the conservatives felt timid, and were likely waiting for their opportunity to jump back into the spotlight.”
Envisioning a rebirth of Saenuri, the UFP and its formation have ended the divide between conservative and centrist politicians post-impeachment. The primary motivation of the merge was not merely to defeat their opposing party in the upcoming elections, but also to denounce the critical flaws the Moon administration has revealed and establish new constitutional order in the Korean government. While the UFP has brought on deep-seated disapproval from the liberals who regard it as a revival of the old, corrupt Saenuri, most importantly, it has underscored many politicians’ concerns over the need to repair the Moon administration, especially at such a time of national health crisis.
“Upon review of some of the NCP’s newest plans, while I do not align with any particular party, they seem more than legitimate,” said Angela Lee (12), Government and Politics student. “The NCP plans to launch a special counsel team to charge President Moon with the abuse of power, eradicate his income-led growth policy, and reinforce ties with the US to ensure strong national security against North Korea. It seems like after Moon’s victory in 2017, the conservatives have learned that demonstrating a strong reform mindset to the people is what’s most important to get them attracted.”
Despite the fact that the NCP’s set of strategic plans are valid and necessary, the conservatives, too, have fallen prey to Moon’s political tactics of populism to garner more followers. With a clear objective to gain support and defeat the Moon administration in the parliamentary elections, many politicians have voiced their visions. According to former National Assembly Secretary-General Park Hyeong-jun’s statement to the Korea Times, reflecting the trends of contemporary society into their policies is crucial in increasing support.
“The conservatives’ primary tactic is to undermine Moon by criticizing the flaws in his policies and his failures throughout his time in office,” said Elly Choi (11), AP US History student. “Some of the criticisms are especially directed toward his utter incompetence in resolving the health crisis that Korea is undergoing. These comments not only demonstrate increasing political polarization but also highlight the need for Moon to acknowledge his mistakes and fix them. Most importantly, I think the conservative movement has been beneficial in underscoring the need for reform. Now it is time to actually bring about change.”