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Political parties experience internal frictions in push for reform

Three months into the new Moon Jae-in administration, political parties across the aisle are experiencing internal friction as they push for reforms before local elections slated for June next year.

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea lawmakers are divided over their chairwoman’s plan to establish a committee to improve the party, and change nomination rules for the local elections.

Rep. Choo Mi-ae, the party leader, said current party regulations should be changed to allow the nominations of new figures in the party in order to bring in new talent. 

Ruling Democratic Party of Korea's chairwoman, Rep. Choo Mi-ae (Yonhap)
Ruling Democratic Party of Korea's chairwoman, Rep. Choo Mi-ae (Yonhap)

“Some are raising wrong speculations over the creation of the development committee, claiming that the party leadership is trying to take away nomination rights and trying to drag President Moon down,” she wrote in a post on Facebook on Sunday.

The current rules were introduced in 2015 when Moon was the party’s chairman. They were changed to give more power to mayors and local representatives for nominations, limiting interventions from the party’s leadership. However, Rep. Choo said the law would only deepen factionalism as members in cities and regions would try to push for their close aides to take the party’s ticket to the national and local elections.

“Those with the ability and purpose but are new to politics cannot be nominated because of the current system,” Rep. Choo said at a general party meeting Friday. “If the party is reformed, new figures would be able to enter the parliament solely on their efforts and skills, without backing from local representatives and factions.”

The opposing party members -- mainly considered pro-Moon -- say that Rep. Choo is only trying to change the regulations to benefit a specific faction and people who support her.

“She is making us look as if we are disagreeing to reforms. But the regulations were made in 2015 in a bid to reform the party at that time,” Rep. Jeon Hae-cheol of the same party said in a Facebook post.

They also insist that the election regulations cannot be changed, as it stipulates revisions should be made a year before any election. The local elections are less than a year away,

The development committee was planned along with another party committee, which seeks to get rid of past wrongdoings in society.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party is also divided over the issue of whether to expel former President Park Geun-hye from the party.

The party’s Chairman Hong Joon-pyo reiterated the need to expel Park, while maintaining that the Constitutional Court’s decision on her ouster should not have happened.

“I said the political impeachment was inevitable, while the court’s ruling to remove (Park) from office is impossible. But now, we cannot annul the ruling. Our party should restart and cut ties with the old administration,” he said in a Facebook post Sunday.

“Are South Korea’s conservatives all sinking with the old administration? Now is the time to be rational and prepare for a new future of the conservatives,” he added. 

Main opposition Liberty Korea Party's chairman Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)
Main opposition Liberty Korea Party's chairman Hong Joon-pyo (Yonhap)

Since Wednesday, Hong has continued to make remarks cutting ties with the former leader, which the opposing members claim is an attempt to kick out the pro-Park loyalist faction inside the party.

“Hong is not properly taking in the opinions of the party’s core supporter base (mainly pro-Park voters),” Ryu Yeo-hae, a member of the party’s Supreme Council said.

Mindful of the clashing views, the party’s reform committee, which consists of professors and civic organization members, is hesitant to directly address the issue.

Some of the pro-Park lawmakers are prominent figures in the party, including eight-term lawmaker Suh Chung-won and Choi Kyung-hwan, who served as minister of economy under the Park administration.

The Constitutional Court ruled to oust the former state chief on March 10, following her impeachment by the National Assembly in December. She was later arrested on charges of corruption, coercion and allowing her confidante Choi Soon-sil to meddle in state affairs.

In the latest poll by Realmeter on Monday, the ruling Democratic Party garnered support of 52.3 percent among 2,010 respondents. The main opposition Liberty Korea Party saw 16.9 percent of support.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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