Park pulls back on idea of GNP purge

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Park pulls back on idea of GNP purge


Representative Park Geun-hye, interim leader of the ruling Grand National Party, attends a GNP lawmakers’ caucus yesterday at the National Assembly. By Kim Hyung-soo

The Grand National Party’s interim leader Park Geun-hye moved quickly yesterday to stop an internal rift from widening by playing down an emergency leadership council member’s demand that political heavyweights allied to President Lee Myung-bak leave the ruling party.

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo Wednesday, Professor Lee Sang-don of Chung-Ang University, a known critic of the president chosen by Park to join the party’s emergency council, said that a purge of key Lee loyalists including the president’s elder brother is needed to salvage the sinking ruling party. He said Representative Lee Sang-deuk, a six-term lawmaker and the elder brother of the president, must leave the GNP, and Representative Lee Jae-oh, a key aide to the president, must not seek re-election in April.

The professor made similar remarks to other news media, prompting concerns of a possible rift in the GNP. Those identified as the targets of the purge reacted with fury, and other senior members of the GNP also expressed worries that the emergency council was creating an internal rupture by fueling factionalism instead of working for unity.

Park acted quickly yesterday to play down the significance of the professor’s remarks.

“It is a personal opinion [of Professor Lee],” Park told reporters as she entered a GNP lawmakers’ caucus yesterday morning. Asked if the whole council agreed with Lee’s demands, Park said, “I will talk about it at the caucus.”

In her opening address at the caucus, Park addressed the issue of getting new blood in the GNP, but she did not pinpoint any targets for expulsion. “We can all be initiators of reform and we can all be targets of reform,” she said. “But we cannot succeed in our reform when we draw a clear line between the initiators and the targets.”

Recruiting fresh faces ahead of the April legislative election is a key task of the GNP. About 100 days are left before the election on April 11, and the liberals have united to counter the conservative ruling party amidst the unexpected rise of independent candidates as a new political force. The general election outcome is also seen as an important factor for the presidential election that follows in eight months.

According to the National Election Commission, 980 candidates have already registered their preliminary candidacies at 245 electoral districts nationwide. Of the 980, 306 are Grand Nationals while 389 are from the largest liberal opposition group, the Democratic Unity Party.

By Ser Myo-ja []
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