Ruling party proposes removing word 'conservative' from party platform

January 11, 2012 11:52 pm 

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Jan. 11 — The ruling Grand National Party on Wednesday proposed removing the word "conservative" from its platform in a symbolic move to widen its appeal ahead of the April parliamentary elections.

The proposal by the party's emergency council is the latest in a series of reform measures it has come up with to shake off its image as a corrupt party mainly for the rich in the face of growing voter discontent with social and economic inequality in Asia's fourth-largest economy.

The platform revision, its first in six years, is likely to spark heated debates within the party as it is expected to face strong opposition from lawmakers who uphold conservative values as the backbone of the party. Advocates say, however, that the party should pursue more flexible policies that better reflect changing social trends.

"The problem lies with people, not the party platform. It's ridiculous," said GNP lawmaker Chung Doo-un. "I oppose changing the party principles. It is important to seek true conservative values."

Rep. Park Geun-hye, who leads the GNP's emergency council, has remained cautious about the party changing its ideological principles without holding thorough discussions among party members.

"(The party) should carefully handle party platforms and principles," Park told reporters. "The draft has not been discussed."

The draft also deleted the expression "against populism," in reflection of the party's latest drive for welfare expansion to meet a growing need for reliable safety nets, officials said. Instead, the proposal stressed such values as fair competition and equal distribution.

"(The platform) still maintains conservative values, including liberalism, market-economy and strong national security," an emergency council member said.

The proposed platform is an about-face from President Lee Myung-bak's growth-driven economic policies that have loosened regulations and cut taxes for businesses, as the struggling party seeks ways to shed its image as being for the privileged.

The GNP, which has traditionally favored smaller government, recently announced a set of measures to solve the widening income gap and support relatively weak and smaller firms in a country whose economy is powered by large industrial conglomerates.

For the draft to be adopted by the party, it needs to gain approval from a majority of party members in a vote. The GNP's emergency council said it will hold a meeting later this week to gather party lawmakers' opinions. (PNA/Yonhap) DCT/rsm

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