LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn (Yonhap)
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and two minor parties officially launched their new merged party Monday, a move to integrate conservatives ahead of the April parliamentary elections.
The tentatively named Party for Future Integration set sail as the LKP approved a move to unify with the New Conservative Party and Onward for Future 4.0 last week. Its official English name has yet to be chosen.
The move is aimed at mustering conservatives to challenge the liberal Moon Jae-in government for the April 15 elections.
The merger came about three months after LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn announced an ambitious bid for conservative parties to join forces to seek an election victory.
The conservative bloc in South Korean politics has been split, stung by the fallout of the 2017 ouster of scandal-ridden President Park Geun-hye, once a darling of the political right.
Rep. Yoo Seong-min (Yonhap)
The New Conservative Party was launched in early January by Rep. Yoo Seong-min and seven other lawmakers who defected from the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party (BP). Yoo previously left the Saenuri Party, the predecessor of the LKP, over Park's scandal.
Onward for Future 4.0 was created by Rep. Lee Un-ju, a former BP lawmaker.
The merger allowed the new party to hold 113 seats in the 295-member National Assembly. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) controls 129 seats.
The main task for the new party will be whether it can overcome internal tensions over the legacy of the scandal-hit former President Park and attract moderate voters.
The pro-Park faction and some LKP members seeking a "grand integration" raised the need to join hands with the ultra-right Our Republican Party, which strongly supports Park.
But lawmakers from the New Conservative Party, who previously pushed for Park's impeachment, do not want to embrace the Taegeukgi forces, or loyalists for Park. The word was coined after Park's supporters held street rallies to call for her release, carrying the Taegeukgi, the national flag.
It still remains to be seen whether the country's second-largest party will join hands with Ahn Cheol-soo, a former presidential candidate who seeks to create a new middle-of-the-road party.
Ahn, once popular with his "new politics" mantra, defected from the minor BP last month. He has rejected the idea of joining hands with the LKP.
The governing DP said it wants the launch of the Party for Future Integration to become a starting point for an overhaul and reform of the conservative bloc. (Yonhap)