The ruling Democratic Party (DP) won a landslide victory in the recent general elections, which were held on April 15 as scheduled despite the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Central Election Commission, the DP and its satellite Platform Party secured a combined 180 seats, or three-fifths of the 300-seat unicameral National Assembly. This is nearly double the 103 seats of the opposition United Future Party (UFP), the conservative party, was able to secure.
The conservative party hadn’t faced such failure since Korea adopted the direct presidential election system in 1987. Hwang Kyo-ahn, the leading chairperson of the conservative party, announced his resignation on election night, saying, “I apologize to the public. I failed to prevent the country from heading in the wrong direction at this significant point in time. This result reflects our party’s inability to gain the trust of the people. However, it is important to have a strong opposition party for Korea. So, please be patient and give the UFP a chance.”
|[KBS, MBC, and SBS conducted an exit poll on election day/ Photo credit: Jaesung Lee]|
Having had a few opportunities to speak with politicians, I have personally observed Korean and US politics since 2014. After listening to Hwang’s resignation announcement, I picked up all of the UFP bulletins and election-related papers I had at home. Observing them, I made the conclusion that the Korean conservative party still has no idea why it failed.
After the election, the UFP vowed to rebuild its party with repentance, reform, and innovation. However, I believe putting words into practice is more important than just delivering flowery speeches. For example, most UFP papers offered no clear solution to South Korea’s lack of an economic plan. Instead, there were mostly explanations and complaints about the issue. Once the DP won, the UFP tried to offer interpretations and explanations for its disastrous defeat. According to the party, one of the main causes of its loss was the verbal blunders of some of its politicians. On the other hand, I believe what essentially led to the fall of the conservatives was their sole desire to obstruct the Moon administration rather than striving to find solutions for building a more powerful one.
|[ Me taking a look at the campaign bulletin of UFP / Photo credit: Seungheon Lee ]|
Let’s take a look at the 2012 general election. At that time, the conservative party’s chairperson was former president Park Geun-hye, and she had a clear message during her campaign, which was “Economic Democracy.” By clearly highlighting her plan, Park was able to adapt her message and change her party’s political colour. What about the 2016 US presidential election? I fully agree that President Trump’s ways of campaigning were somewhat offensive and inappropriate. At the same time, however, Trump had a clear political message, “Make America Great Again.” Even though this message was controversial, it was clear enough for even kindergarteners to understand.
But what about the UFP? Unlike President Park or President Trump, the party did not communicate any strong message about how to change Korea and make it a better place to live. Instead, the party dedicated the majority of its energy to weakening the policies of the Moon administration. After examining this year’s election, I believe that the UFP and Korean conservatives need to conduct a more meaningful campaign next time. If the UFP were to ask Korean citizens for their ideas on how to solve Korea’s problems, the party would be able to gain more trust and respect. I am looking forward to seeing the conservative party take such new approaches and make more substantial changes for the next election.
Jack (Kangmin) Lee
Seoul International School
Jack (Kangmin) Lee firstname.lastname@example.org
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