What's in a Name?

      January 27, 2012 13:22

      The ruling Grand National Party on Thursday decided to change its name. The decision what to call it will be made on Monday after the public submits ideas and an opinion poll is conducted.

      The name "Grand National Party" dates to November 1997, when Lee Hoi-chang's New Korea Party merged with Cho Soon's Democratic Party.

      No political party in Korea has weathered good and bad times to last throughout the modern history of the country. The Conservative Party of the U.K. and the Republican and Democratic parties of the U.S. have kept their names for centuries. Their constituents and the demographics of its support base may have changed, but the parties have managed to keep their names. The British Conservative Party was launched to protect the rights and interests of the nobility and landed gentry, but as voting rights were given to ordinary people, the party grew to encompass the country's small and mid-sized business owners and workers. Still it kept its name.

      Here in Korea, the opposite is happening. The constituents and support base remain the same, but the parties just rename themselves whenever they feel cornered.

      When the GNP was founded, party officials said the name contained the hopes of the public to overcome division and bring the people together in a new era of unity and rid society of corruption. When the NKP changed its name to GNP, members expressed their dislike of the new name, but young voters supported it. Now it has grown to symbolize outdated politics, but once the name had quite a fresh ring to it.

      But the reason the GNP is fighting for its very existence is not its name. Rather, the name has been tarnished by a prevailing view that it only supports the interests of a few wealthy people and the constant corruption scandals surrounding its lawmakers. Instead of looking for a quick fix in a new name, the party needs to show voters that it is undergoing a painful process of reforms.

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