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Nine lawmakers to defect from Bareun Party

Nine lawmakers of the minor conservative Bareun Party said Monday they will defect to the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, as the right wing realigns ahead of next year‘s local elections.

With the defections, the splinter Bareun Party will lose its status as a parliamentary negotiating bloc, which requires at least 20 seats at the 299-member National Assembly. The number of the remaining legislators is 11. 

Members of minor opposition Bareun Party announce their defection at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)
Members of minor opposition Bareun Party announce their defection at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)

“Today, we will leave Bareun Party to take the first step to the path of grand reunion of the conservatives,” three-term lawmaker Rep. Kim Young-woo said in a press briefing at the National Assembly.

“We could not help but accept the call from voters supporting the conservatives, as we see the Moon Jae-in administration’s mishandling of national security issues with the North and its populistic economic policies,” six-term lawmaker Kim Moo-sung said, adding that their decision only comes to reinforce the conservative bloc that has been struggling to gain much public support.

The leaving members include the six-term politician, Kim Young-woo, Kang Ghil-boo, Kim Yong-tae and Hwang Young-cheul. One of them is the party’s interim chief and the Floor Leader, Rep. Joo Ho-young. He will discard party membership after a new party chairman is picked at the convention slated for next Monday, he said.

The defecting members will submit the written notification of their quitting to the party on Wednesday and will join the bigger conservative party the following day, Rep. Kim Yong-tae explained.

The 20-member party has been facing a factional feud between those supporting the independence of the party and those seeking to merge with other political parties, as they suffered from low approval rates. According to the lawmakers, they gathered on Sunday night to reduce the gap but failed to draw out a consensus.

After the announcement, the remaining 11 members expressed regret over the decision.

“I cannot understand the members leaving the party and am regretful,” four-term lawmaker Rep. Yoo Seong-min, who led the faction supporting the independence, said. He is currently running for party chairman, and was previously the party’s presidential candidate.

“The remaining members will make the utmost effort to persuade those who have not decided to stay in the party,” he said, adding that the party will proceed with their preparation for their leadership contest slated on Monday.

Two candidates withdrew their candidacy earlier in the day, but the remaining four nominees participated in the scheduled candidate debate in the afternoon.

In January, the minor conservative party split off from the then ruling Saenuri Party before it rebranded itself as Liberty Korea Party, after a corruption scandal broke out involving the then President Park Guen-hye and many of her close aides, and her confidante Choi Soon-sil.

At the time, the 33 members had vowed to reform the conservatives and promote the true values of conservatism. But 13 members left the splinter party to go back to Liberty Korea Party after the presidential election in May, leaving 20 members.

Monday’s announcement of the defection comes after the Liberty Korea Party took away the membership of the jailed former President Park on Friday. Park is currently standing trial after the Constitutional Court removed her from office in March.

By Jo He-rim (