By Park Si-soo
A center-right political party took form Monday, posing a threat to undercut the support base for the ruling Saenuri Party in the lead up to the April 11 general election.
Support for the conservative party has declined rapidly following a series of unsavory scandals involving senior members. This has spawned speculation that the upcoming election will lead to the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) obtaining the majority position in the 299-seat unicameral National Assembly.
The new K Party has been created by Park Se-il, president of the conservative political think tank the Hansun Foundation. Chang Ki-pyo, chairman of an obscure opposition party with no parliamentary seat, was thought to be leading the party with Park, but he decided not to do so after last-minute talks between the two.
The K Party aims to win more than 30 parliamentary seats by fielding candidates in more than 200 constituencies.
In a launch ceremony in Seoul, Park said his party will uphold a mix of “reformative conservatism and rational progressivism.”
“I will reshape the country’s conservatism in the election with fresh ways to appeal to the public,” he said. “We will challenge half of the 200 constituencies with political novices who are either female or in their 30s or 40s.”
Park said the remaining constituencies will be filled with seasoned politicians, indicating his party will recruit figures from established political institutions such as the Saenuri Party and DUP.
“We can cooperate with any political forces — either the ruling or opposition bloc — as long as it guarantees our victory in the election,” he said.
The former conservative legislator has openly expressed his discontent with the ruling party, saying in a December interview he was “sick and tired of old politics” which has put personal ambition before national interests and people’s livelihoods. He added he had found “no hope inside the ruling party dominated by outdated conservatism.”
Park has appointed Koo Cheon-seo, chairman of the Korea Future Foundation with a strong political presence in the central part of the nation, to a position in charge of candidate selection, hinting at forging a strategic partnership with the minor conservative Liberty Forward Party (LFP).
Koo reportedly contacted the LFP’s leader and members prior to the launch ceremony in a move to push forward a partnership but no clear sign of mutual consent has yet emerged.
Analysts haven’t rule out the possibility that the K Party could emerge as a dark horse in the election.
“One critical shortcoming is that the K Party has no incumbent lawmaker,” said Shin Yul, a political science professor at Seoul’s Myongji University. “But if it succeeds in forging a partnership with the LFP, the new party could attract people’s attention in both the central area and Seoul.”