Leaders of the Democratic Party, the Citizens Unity Party and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions clap hands after announcing the launching of a new liberal party at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul, Friday.
/ Korea Times
By Chung Min-uck
Liberal groups publicly announced the inauguration of a new party, tentatively named the “Democratic Unity Party (DUP),” to take on the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) in key elections next year.
“We are gathered here to answer the call of the people,” Sohn Hak-kyu, chairman of the former Democratic Party (DP) said in a speech to the inauguration meeting of the DUP, Friday. “We seek to win in the general and presidential elections next year through the unity of the liberal progressive bloc.”
The name of the new liberal party was decided through a public survey conducted on Thursday and Friday.
With the launch of the DUP, liberals are now grouped into two unified parties ― the other being the Unified Progressive Party (UPP), a merger of three minor progressive parties which was formed earlier this month.
The DUP is expected to start negotiations with the UPP for another merger before the general elections scheduled for April.
However, this is not expected to be easy as the UPP insists on an alliance instead of a full merger out of fear that it would be absorbed by the larger party.
Discussions on the merger between the main opposition DP, Citizens Unity Party (CUP), a party largely consisting of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun’s aides, and the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the nation’s largest labor umbrella group, began after civic activist Park Won-soon won the Seoul mayoral by-election as a unified liberal candidate in October. The move soon came to a halt as the DP faced a backlash from some of its members who opposed integration. But former floor leader Park Jie-won, a leading figure opposing the merger, backed off at the last minute, paving the way for the liberals to form the envisioned party.
The DP’s current leadership is to end its term following the inauguration.
The DUP is to hold a preliminary election on Dec. 26 to choose nine candidates for the leadership which will be followed by a party convention on Jan. 15 to finalize the selection of six members of its Supreme Council. Voting at the party convention is to be comprised of 70 percent from the public and party members and 30 percent from party delegates.
Until then, an 11-member interim leadership body led by Won Hye-young of the DP and Lee Yong-sun of the CUP will govern the party.
At present, around 20 members from the DP and the CUP are ready to run for the leadership of the new party. Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook and Park Jie-won of the DP, and Moon Seong-geun, actor and co-leader of the CUP, are preparing for the race.