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Hong declares bid to become conservative party chief

Hong Joon-pyo, a former presidential candidate and provincial governor, on Sunday declared that he would be running for the chief position of the Liberty Korea Party, vowing to rebuild the nation’s right wing through a complete overhaul.

“The new start of the Liberty Korea Party will come with innovation. I will lead comprehensive reform and revive the (fallen) party,” he told a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul.

With Hong in the contest, the race for the main opposition party’s leadership is shaping up to be a three-way battle. The two other contenders are five-term lawmaker Rep. Won Yoo-chul and four-term politician Shin Sang-jin. All three of them registered their candidacy on Saturday.

Former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo speaks to reporters at a press briefing at the Liberty Korea Party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Sunday. (Yonhap)
Former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo speaks to reporters at a press briefing at the Liberty Korea Party’s headquarters in Yeouido, Seoul, Sunday. (Yonhap)

Former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong is the favorite to win, as he is credited with the party’s better-than-expected performance in the presidential election. He came in second with 24 percent of the votes in the May 9 election.

However, he is a divisive figure within the party for his outspoken rhetoric and hard-line stance.

At Sunday’s press conference, Hong did not miss the opportunity to strongly lash out at his own party, President Moon Jae-in and the media.

“I have never seen a government dealing with issues in such a way,” he said, referring to the president going ahead with his personnel choices, despite parliamentary opposition. “In the end, the regime has only been changed from the pro-Park Geun-hye faction to a pro-North Korea one.”

On Sunday, President Moon went against the three opposition parties, including the Liberty Korea Party, by appointing Kang Kyung-wha as foreign minister.

Hong even said the government has “seized control” of the media and polls to manipulate the president’s popularity.

Referring to a Gallup poll that showed President Moon’s approval rating to be 99 percent in Gwangju, Hong said that such a figure is not possible even for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“The very first move a Chinese communist regime makes is to dominate the propagandistic institutes to maintain its power,” he added.

The two other Liberty Korea Party contenders, Reps. Won and Shin, have also expressed their firm resolve to “revamp” the party, which is currently struggling to win back trust from the citizens.

In the same Gallup poll, the right-wing party stood at 10 percent in support rating, while the ruling Democratic Party of Korea took 50 percent of approval from 1,003 citizen respondents.

With the party’s electioneering period officially kicking off from Monday for 14 days, the three candidates are expected to hold several regional debates leading up to the party’s National Convention, which is to take place on July 3 in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

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