Most DP members support merger

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Most DP members support merger

More than half of Democratic Party lawmakers now say they support holding a combined convention to elect the leadership for a merged liberal party, according to a JoongAng Ilbo survey, after initially giving the proposal a cold response.

Earlier this month, Representative Sohn Hak-kyu, DP chairman, proposed a convention that included all progressive parties, civic groups and factions in a bid to create a merged liberal party for next year’s elections.

The JoongAng Ilbo conducted a telephone survey yesterday of all 87 DP members in the National Assembly, of which 81 responded.

Among the respondents, 39 said they supported holding a combined liberal convention to elect new leadership, as proposed by Sohn, instead of the DP’s convention, which is slated for Dec. 17.

Seven other lawmakers said they agreed with holding a unified liberal convention in the afternoon after the DP’s own convention.

Thirteen other DP lawmakers responded that the party should start pursuing a merger with other liberal groups only after holding its own convention. The remaining 22 DP lawmakers reached by the survey expressed other views or declined to comment.

The results of the survey come after what was initially said to be a cold response from within the party to Sohn’s plan for a unified convention with Innovation and Integration and other left-leaning groups on Dec. 17.

Innovation and Integration, a group established by loyalists to former President Roh Moo-hyun in September, proposed last month the creation of a new political party to represent a larger spectrum of the country’s liberals.

Senior DP members, such as Representative Park Jie-won and Representative Kim Boo-kyum, have said they were opposed to a unified convention, calling the proposal hasty and stressing the importance of keeping the DP’s identity. They also said there was insufficient time for the DP and other liberal parties to organize a combined convention to elect a new leadership.

“A unified convention is the best way to live up to the people’s wish, which supported Seoul National University Professor Ahn Cheol-soo and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon,” said Representative Shin Hak-yong.

Ahn, a doctor-turned-software mogul, became an anti-establishment political star whose endorsement of Park Won-soon catapulted the former civil activist to Seoul’s City Hall last month. Park, in a liberal primary, defeated the DP’s nominee to run against the Grand National Party’s nominee, former Representative Na Kyung-won. The DP backed Park in the race.

Representative Cho Young-teck said that no lawmakers would deny that integration of the country’s liberals was inevitable. Representatives Jong Bum-goo and Moon Hak-jin, meanwhile, warned that only holding a convention for the DP would make a grand liberal merger more unlikely.

But some DP lawmakers, while admitting the inevitability of a unified convention, doubted whether a unified convention could take place within the year, especially because of the work required to reach a consensus with other liberal groups on how to hold a unified convention.

In order for a combined convention to be held on Dec. 17, an agreement among all parties would have to be made by the end of this month.

Representatives Park Jie-won and Kim Boo-kyum, while saying that they were a minor voice in the party, cited the time restraints as the reason why they believed the DP would end up having its own convention.

Meanwhile, the DP leadership and leaders of Innovation and Integration - including Moon Jae-in, head of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation and former chief of staff to Roh - met to lay the groundwork for a merged party, reconfirming their position of holding a combined convention.

“We have reached consensus on finalizing working-level negotiations for a merger by the end of this month and launching a merged party within the year,” said an official of Innovation and Integration.

The DP plans to meet today with leaders of the party’s regional offices to ask their opinions about a combined convention.


By Park Shin-hong, Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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