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Saenuri rift deepens

Factional strife continued to escalate in the ruling Saenuri Party on Monday, with members critical of President Park Geun-hye demanding the resignation of party leaders loyal to the embattled president.

Five party officials began a hunger strike Monday, demanding party chief Rep. Lee Jung-hyun step down immediately. Other members even mooted the need for the party’s dissolution in order to win back voters’ support amid a devastating scandal engulfing the conservative president and ruling camp.

Rep. Lee has refused to bow out, saying the party should hold a convention in January to elect new leadership. He said he would step down on Dec. 21, or earlier if a neutral Cabinet were to be formed before the date. 
Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun meets party officials who are on a hunger strike demanding his resignation from the party leadership in front of the lawmaker’s office at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun meets party officials who are on a hunger strike demanding his resignation from the party leadership in front of the lawmaker’s office at the National Assembly in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
Reflective of the division, party lawmakers held two separate meetings to discuss the current situation.

“The most important key here is unity (within the party).” Rep. Lee said in one of the meetings early Monday. “I want members to refrain from talking about party dissolution and be more cautious.”

Opposing members held their own gathering led by floor leader Chung Jin-suk, who emphasized the importance of the role of the National Assembly.

“The floor leaders from both the ruling and main opposition parties should put their heads together to come up with an idea to resolve the current state crisis,” Rep. Chung said in one of the emergency meetings Monday.

Members of the nonmainstream factions also rejected Lee’s call for a party convention as an “unrealistic” idea.

“(Lee’s) decision to resign after forming a neutral Cabinet under his lead does not make sense, as he has already lost trust from the citizens and party members,” Rep. Hwang Young-chul said.

On Sunday, Rep. Kim Moo-sung, a former Saenuri Party leader now helming the party’s faction critical of President Park, said the party should impeach Park for violating her constitutional obligation as head of state by letting her friend Choi Soon-sil meddle in state affairs.

By Jo He-rim(herim@heraldcorp.com)
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