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[News Focus] New party sways between reform and conservatism

The New Conservative Party for Reform, the tentative name for the splinter group from the ruling Saenuri Party, may be seen as reflecting the new political entity’s two-pronged challenge: proving its reformative spirit, while holding on to its conventional support base.

The new party’s most imminent task is to outrun its previous home camp, Saenuri, and receive conservative voters’ recognition in key political agendas such as economy and national security.

Also, it is the more likely of the two parties to eventually gain the support of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is currently the unrivaled presidential hopeful speaking for the nation’s conservative group.

Ban, whose term is to end Saturday, is expected to return to his home country and shape up his road map for the earlier-than-planned presidential race next year.

The new party Wednesday held a forum to discuss its party platform, policies, as well as an official name.
Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (left) and Chief Policymaker Rep. Lee Jong-gu of the New Conservative Party for Reform speak at a forum at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young (left) and Chief Policymaker Rep. Lee Jong-gu of the New Conservative Party for Reform speak at a forum at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Wednesday. (Yonhap)
“What we must do is to convince (the people) that our party may achieve what conventional conservative parties have been unable to do,” said Floor Leader Rep. Joo Ho-young.

“It is crucial to embrace the core values of conservatives, while pointing out clearly what they should reform and change.”

The notable tone of the Saenuri defectors was that they claimed to have the authenticity of the nation’s leading conservative cluster while cutting off all ties with the Saenuri name.

Though policy details are yet to be revealed, gestures have been detected from key members that the new party wishes to expand its political leverage into the centrist-reformist sector, moving a step away from the conservative.

“We will definitely take a different stance from Saenuri when it comes to conglomerate reforms and welfare policies,” said the party’s chief policymaker Rep. Lee Jong-koo.

Rep. Yoo Seong-min, one of the main figures of the new party, also confirmed the new party would keep a conservative stance on national security issues and a reformative one on other issues related to the people’s livelihood.

“Reformative conservatism means that we will add new reformative moves in sectors such as economy, welfare, labor, education and child care so as to protect our community from collapsing under inequality and polarization,” he said.

The drastic gesture at reform was seen as one of the reasons which led to Rep. Na Kyung-won taking back her earlier pledge to join the new party.

Rep. Na, despite her firm position as a non-Park figure, did not join the group of 29 defectors Tuesday.

But the new party was still cautious in hinting at these reformative moves in a subtle manner, so as not to distance itself from the considerable number of conservative-leaning voters who may yet be undecided on whether to support Saenuri or the splinter group.

The opposition will eventually have to contend with the conservative parties at the upcoming presidential race.

“The new party, in order to prove that it is indeed better than the pro-Park (Geun-hye) clique, should actively participate in legislating reformative bills at the February parliamentary session,” said Rep. Choo Mi-ae, chief of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.

“I fear that their binary way of dividing national security and economic issues may be but a plot to grasp conservative votes and that it will do little to solve problems.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (