The Korea Herald


Hong Joon-pyo elected as Liberty Korea Party chief

By Jo He-rim

Published : July 3, 2017 - 18:37

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Hong Joon-pyo, a former provincial governor and presidential candidate, was elected as the chief of the Liberty Korea Party on Monday, ending the 200-day leadership vacuum at the conservative main opposition.

“Today, you have endowed me with the heavy responsibility of taking the chief position of this party. Your call is an order to revive the nation’s conservative faction and I will bear the decision you have made,” Hong said after his election at the party’s headquarters in Seoul.

Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap) Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)

“It will be a long and difficult battle, but we will be able to reach the finish line. I will restart and set right the Liberty Korea Party.”

The party will be reformed and united, with the true values of conservatives, he added. Hong also reiterated his pledge to establish a reform committee and to fill an interim ethics committee with external personnel to keep watch against wrongdoings within the party.

In the three-way race, the former South Gyeongsang Province governor took nearly 52,000 votes. Runner-up Rep. Won Yoo-cheol received about 18,000 votes, while Rep. Shin Sang-jin garnered 8,914 ballots. The results reflected the combined number of votes from the party’s members and a public poll.

After former President Park Geun-hye was impeached by the National Assembly last December, then-party chief Rep. Lee Jung-hyun voluntarily resigned. Park’s removal from power was confirmed in March by the Constitutional Court. The developments led to the then-ruling Saenuri Party being split into the Liberty Korea Party and the Bareun Party. The party’s floor leader Rep. Chung Woo-taik had taken the interim chief role and it rebranded itself as the Liberty Korea Party on Feb. 8.

At the National Convention, members of the party’s supreme council were also announced. Three-term lawmaker Lee Cheol-woo, two-term lawmaker Kim Tae-heum, and party members Ryu Yeo-hae and Lee Jae-man were voted to the council.

With Hong’s victory, the focus is now on the relationship between the party and its splinter conservative Bareun Party, which was created by some 30 defected members from the former Saenuri Party. The minor conservative party currently has 20 members and is headed by sharp-tongued Lee Hye-hoon who was elected last week.

The former provincial governor had previously said that he would absorb the smaller party, and re-create the Liberty Korea Party as the only conservative party.

Hong is a divisive figure who has often come under fire for his unrefined rhetoric. However, he is praised for his political sense, which is viewed as the factor that led to his better-than-expected result at the May 9 presidential election. He came in second after President Moon Jae-in, garnering 24 percent of votes.

The veteran politician entered politics in 1996 after working for 12 years as a state prosecutor. He was a four-term lawmaker before he took the post of South Gyeongsang Province governor. He ran as the party’s flag-bearer during this year’s presidential election.

Hosted in two different stages -- at the National Assembly and at a potato farm in Namyangju, Gyeonggi Province -- this year’s National Convention was different from previous ones, which were usually held in big stadiums with large, cheering crowds.

This time, the candidates left for the city located on the outskirts of Seoul to greet residents there. Dressed in farm hats and boots, the candidates, including Hong, crouched on the ground at a farm and dug out potatoes as part of volunteer work.

At the parliament’s memorial hall, the scene was streamed live on a screen with the rest of the party members gathered. When the winner was announced around noon, the newly-elected chief Hong and other members gave short speeches at the scene.

Monday’s convention event is reported to have cost only 20 million won ($17,400), a much smaller amount compared to past events.

In a poll released Monday by Realmeter, the Liberty Korea Party stood second, garnering 15.9 percent of approval from 2,520 respondents, a rise of 1.4 percentage points from the previous week. Its conservative rival, the splinter Bareun Party was fourth, 0.3 percentage point behind the progressive Justice Party with 6 percent. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea led the poll with 53.3 percent.

By Jo He-rim (