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Posted : 2018-02-13 16:33
Updated : 2018-02-13 19:29

New centrist party vows to beat two major parties

Rep. Yoo Seong-min, left, and Ahn Cheol-soo push buttons in a ceremony to signal the beginning of the Bareun Mirae Party at the KINTEX convention center in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday. The party was created through a merger of the minor conservative Bareun Party led by Yoo and the minor liberal People's Party led by Ahn. / Yonhap

By Choi Ha-young

GOYANG, Gyeonggi Province ― The Bareun Mirae Party (BMP), formed through the merger between the liberal People's Party and the conservative Bareun Party, officially began Tuesday, vowing to be a powerful centrist opposition party.

The two parties agreed to appoint two four-term lawmakers from each party ― Park Joo-sun, former interim leader of the People's Party, and Yoo Seong-min, chairman of the Bareun Party ― as co-chairman of the BMP at its national convention held at the KINTEX convention center in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.

"The BMP firmly promises to be a centrist party which is capable of taking power," Park said in his acceptance speech. "We will not only criticize the ruling party but also mediate between the liberal ruling and the conservative opposition party."

Park, however, dismissed the rumor that the BMP will collude with the Liberty Korea Party (LKP). "Here I sternly declare that we will never join hands with far-rightists who are responsible for the influence-peddling scandal," he noted.

At the same time, he appealed to the Party for Democracy and Peace (PDP), a splinter group from the People's Party. "To create a centrist government, I am looking forward to a reunion with the PDP," Park said.

Yoo detailed the policy keynote of the BMP. "We've grappled with the ideology of the new party," Yoo said. The BMP aims to be a "future-oriented and reformative group" to make a "just and warm" society, he said. The terms, without scanty ideological hue, shows the lingering rift among the party members with distinctive ideological and regional backgrounds.

Regarding its stance toward North Korea, the most divisive topic in politics here, Yoo unveiled a conservative-leaning point of view.

"The highest level of sanctions against the North based on the solid Korea-U.S. alliance is essential to prevent the war and remove its nuclear weapons," Yoo said. "In doing so, we can't trust the Moon Jae-in administration."

The party omitted ex-President Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy which was included in the principle of the liberal People's Party. The People's Party used to advocate the interests of the Jeolla region, where the former president was born.

The leadership indicates the party's message of breaking away from regionalism ― Park is based in the liberal Jeolla Provinces and Yoo is an iconic politician from the conservative Gyeongsang Provinces, which have wrangled for decades.

Incumbent leader of the People's Party Ahn Cheol-soo will serve as a common party member as he promised, seemingly considering running for the local election in June.

People's Party floor leader Kim Dong-cheol will keep the post and Bareun Party floor leader Oh Shin-hwan will serve as the vice floor leader. Rep. Ji Sang-wuk, a close aide of Yoo, will be the BMP's chief policy maker.

The birth of the 30-seat party came after a bitter internal feud of the two parties. The People's Party lost 15 liberal-leaning lawmakers, who refused to join hands in the merger with the conservative party. Two lawmakers rejoined the larger conservative LKP from the Bareun Party, and more politicians may leave the BMP in the near future.

The upcoming local election is the first hurdle for the BMP. It is unclear whether the party could target the niche market between the two popular parties ― the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the LKP.

According to a Realmeter opinion survey issued Monday, the party stood at 11 percent of the support rate, lower than the DPK with 44.4 percent and the LKP with 19.1 percent.

The 30-seat BMP is likely to have some leverage with the two larger parties, since the 121-seat DPK and the 116-seat LKP both need the cooperation of BMP lawmakers in pushing ahead their bills in the 293-member National Assembly.