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Posted : 2012-02-13 13:46
Updated : 2012-02-13 13:46

New centrist party takes shape before April polls

A new center-right party launched on Monday with self-proclaimed "true" conservative pledges, as political parties and experts cautiously watch for its possible impact on April's parliamentary elections.

Park Se-il, 64, chairman of the private think-tank Hansun Foundation, joined with former conservative lawmakers and activists to create the "K Party" amid growing frustration among conservatives with the ruling Saenuri Party, formerly the Grand National Party.

The ruling party has been losing support from its traditional supporters with a flurry of populist policies and an image tainted with corruption.

"The traditional political parties are taking populist stances on the major policies ..., but that is an act of hurting the national interest," Park told the Yonhap News Agency.

Park, who is considered a leading right wing theorist, criticized the opposition's promise to repeal a free trade agreement with the United States after an election victory and lawmakers' moves to enact a special law to compensate victims of the nation's troubled savings banks.

The "K Party," whose Korean name means "People's Thought," plans to field more than 200 candidates and will favor young and female leaders in the nomination process to give fresh talent more chances, said Park.

Park became a lawmaker on GNP's proportional representation ticket but left the party a year later.

While the new party describes itself as an ardent advocate of conservative values, the ruling camp is divided over its impact on the upcoming vote amid ongoing negotiations between liberal parties to present a united front to increase their chances in the upcoming election.

The April vote is considered a major test before the presidential race in December.

Rep. Cho Hae-jin of the Saenuri Party worried the new party could split conservative votes in key districts.

"As it could be hard to (win the election) by drawing all conservatives and independents under the current circumstances, the K Party could have a negative impact in tight races," Cho said. "We would need an alliance (with the party)."

Others were skeptical of the new party's power, stating that party members are mostly old politicians and political novices.

"Although the party stands for 'reformative conservative' values, it would not meet the expectations of the current trends as most of the party members are from the old order," a Saenuri Party official said, requesting anonymity. (Yonhap)

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