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Liberty Korea Party leadership race shapes up

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party is preparing to elect its new party leadership in early July, with the race widely expected to be a showdown between supporters and opponents of the party’s previous presidential candidate, Hong Joon-pyo.

The former South Gyeongsang Province governor remains a divisive figure among party lawmakers. While he is credited for the party’s better-than-expected performance in the election -- Hong landed in second place despite the blow of President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment -- some party members worry that Hong’s hard-line stance and sharp rhetoric scares away moderate voters.

Former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo (left) and a five-term lawmaker Rep. Won Yoo-chul (Yonhap)
Former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo (left) and a five-term lawmaker Rep. Won Yoo-chul (Yonhap)

“Those who are seeking to further their own benefit while conservatives are being destroyed should be wiped out,” one of several Facebook posts by the 63-year-old politician reads.

Rep. Won Yoo-chul, a five-term lawmaker, hinted at a leadership bid via Facebook on Sunday.

“The Liberty Korea Party should achieve its political revolution in the July 3 National Convention,” he wrote.

“The party’s leadership should be seated by revolutionary warriors who pursue values of innovation, communication and openness. I am ready for that.”

Rep. Won stresses that the party must reach out to young conservatives through reforms.

While the party remains sharply divided, Hong is viewed as the favorite to lead the party, due to his popularity among staunch conservatives.

Aside from Won and Hong, four-term Reps. Hong Moon-jong and Yoo Ki-june are also considered possible contenders.

The party’s national convention is scheduled on July 3. According to the rules, which were agreed Monday, the new leadership team will be elected through a combined vote -- 70 percent to be determined by registered party members and 30 percent by a public poll.

They will also introduce a mobile voting system for early voting and will install the ballot booths across the nation on July 2. The candidate registration period begins Saturday and the electioneering for the candidates are allowed for 14 days from June 19.

The minor conservative splinter party, Bareun Party, is also set to elect a new leadership on June 26.

Reps. Ha Tae-keung, Kim Young-woo, Lee Hye-hoon, Jeong Woon-chun and former lawmaker Chung Mi-kyung have announced or are expected to make a bid for the party’s leadership. Reps. Kim Moo-sung and Yoo Seong-min, who were the driving force in the party’s foundation, have stated that they will not run.

The party, which had split off from the Saenuri Party before it rebranded itself as the Liberty Korea Party, claims to pursue a “reformative conservative” agenda, in bid to differentiate itself from the main opposition.

By Jo He-rim (