Posted : 2017-01-04 17:21
Updated : 2017-01-04 19:19

Do-or-die battle grips ruling party

Saenuri Party Rep. Suh Chung-won, a loyalist of President Park Geun-hye, speaks to reporters at the National Assembly, Wednesday. He urged In Myung-jin, the party's reformist interim leader, to leave the party immediately. / Yonhap

Park loyalist urges interim leader to leave immediately

By Kim Hyo-jin, Choi Ha-young

Rep. Suh Chung-won, the de-facto leader of a Saenuri Party faction that supports President Park Geun-hye, called on the party's interim leader In Myung-jin to leave the party immediately, Wednesday.

Suh's demand represents a deepening struggle between Park loyalists and In, who has called for their departure from the party repeatedly, saying their existence is hampering reform.

"It is In, not us, who should leave the party right away," said Suh. "Did he come to the party to reform or ruin it?" he asked.

Suh labeled In a "tyrant" and a "left-wing extremist," saying he was purging the party just like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un purges his country.

This is a response to In's speech that likened the pro-Park faction to a "tumor." In, Tuesday, targeted Reps. Suh and Choi Kyung-hwan.

Suh added that In and some party officials are forcing lawmakers to quit the party and demanding that others not go to pro-Park rallies. Previously, Suh sent a letter to fellow lawmakers, saying that he will not leave the party through an "undemocratic" way.

The ruling party recruited In, a former Christian activist, to overcome the party's crisis that it has faced since the influence-peddling scandal erupted involving impeached President.

Jeju governor quits

Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong announced Wednesday that he will leave the Saenuri Party and join the group that broke away to create the New Conservative Party for Reform.

"I will quit the Saenuri Party and take a path to form a new political force," Won said during a press conference at the National Assembly.

"I apologize to the public because I failed to prevent the Park administration's bungled state management while being pulled back by factional politics centering on a single person, the President."

His move came as anti-Park lawmakers who quit the Saenuri Party en masse last month are preparing to officially inaugurate the new conservative party, Jan. 24.

The New Conservative Party for Reform has 30 lawmakers so far and is expanding its influence with more Saenuri Party members joining.

Won became the second governor to leave the party, following Nam Kyung-pil of Gyeonggi Province. His resignation reduces the number of Saenuri Party-affiliated local governments to just six out of 17.

Later in the day, Rep. Jeong Kab-yoon, a five-term lawmaker loyal to President Park, said he will leave the Saenuri Party, too, taking responsibility for the presidential scandal that led to the impeachment of Park.

The breakaway of Jeong, one of the key pro-Park members, raised speculation that more pro-Park members could follow suit, according to party officials.

In has ratcheted up his offensive against Park loyalists, saying they need to give up party membership as a way to take responsibility of the botched state administration and Park's impeachment.

Former party Chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, a staunch ally to Park, became the first to resign amid increasing pressure by In.

With the aggravating feud between the new chief and mainstream pro-Park lawmakers, the New Conservative Party for Reform is expecting additional 10 or so Saenuri lawmakers to join them.

"I decided to leave the party as I worried the Saenuri Party could even dissolve amid falling popularity and accelerated internal division unless someone takes action," Jeong told reporters.

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