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Minor opposition leaders to release joint proposal on merger

The leaders of two minor opposition parties are preparing a joint proposal for a merger and are expected to make the announcement as early as this week, party officials said Monday.

Chairmen Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People’s Party and Yoo Seong-min of the center-right Bareun Party are likely to release a statement containing the spirit underlying the founding of their new party and its identity, a lawmaker close to Ahn said. 

People’s Party Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo (right) and Bareun Party Chairman Yoo Seong-min (Yonhap)
People’s Party Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo (right) and Bareun Party Chairman Yoo Seong-min (Yonhap)

“The proposal is in its last stage, and when the two leaders confirm it, the statement will be released before the end of this week,” he said. “While they have agreed on the need for the two parties to merge, it would be their first joint declaration of unity.”

Asked how the two leaders have coordinated on the details of the merger, including their different positions regarding North Korea, the politician said the statement will reveal the new party’s political direction.

The two minor opposition parties have been pushing for a merger as a way to foster a “third political force” and counter the two major parties ahead of the upcoming local election slated for June 13.

Ahn has long promoted his party as a powerful centrist alternative at the National Assembly, and stressed the need to counterbalance the dichotomous National Assembly where the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and main opposition Liberty Korea Party dominate the legislative procedure.

Amid strong backlash from opponents to the proposed merger within his party, Ahn and his supporters formed a committee on Sunday to host a party convention on Feb. 4 aimed at reaching a final consensus on the merger plan.

Eighteen of the 39 lawmakers from the People’s Party, including some veteran politicians such as former party chief Park Jie-won, have created a counter group to oppose the party’s merger and have hinted at the possibility of establishing a new party if Ahn continues with the plan.

Rep. Kim Se-yeon and Gyeonggi Province Gov. Nam Kyung-pil bolted from the Bareun Party, opposing the merger. Kim returned to the conservative Liberty Korea Party last week.

By Jo He-rim (