Park warns party loyalists to stay united, on message

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Park warns party loyalists to stay united, on message

Saenuri Party’s interim leader Park Geun-hye issued a stern warning to her loyalists yesterday, as rumors spread that her supporters were engaged in a power struggle to seize power inside the ruling party.

“If we make one more mistake the party will walk the path of self-destruction,” Park said yesterday.

She gave an unusually harsh assessment of the party’s current affairs amidst the growing rift inside the ruling party over its upcoming leadership election.

“Only a few days have passed since the legislative elections, but some party members already forgot about their appeals to the people and spread distorted rumors,” Park said.

“And they were replayed and exaggerated. If this continues, the party will be seen as disorderly to the public. If the public sees our split and conflicts, we will have to face another judgment.”

Since the Saenuri Party scored an upset victory in the April 11 legislative elections, an internal conflict grew among the Park loyalists to further gain control of the ruling party.

The party will have its leadership election on May 15, but rumors spread that the next party chairman and Supreme Council members were already decided among the Park loyalists.

The rumors also said the next National Assembly speaker and floor leader were already decided secretly.

Park also made an apparent warning to other presidential contenders inside the party over challenging the primary rule.

“If they want to continue political strife rather than looking after people’s livelihoods, they should have said so frankly,” she said.

“But they remained silent during the legislative election and started the conflict right after the election. This is extremely embarrassing before the people.”

Park also showed concerns that Saenuri’s hard-earned victory will be tainted by the internal power struggles. “The people will think that the politicians were repeating their old practice once again,” she said. “That is an act of harming the party.”

Park’s warning appeared to have an immediate impact. Representative Suh Byung-soo, a Park loyalist, held a press conference in the afternoon and announced that he won’t run in the floor leader election.

“To realize the party’s goal of serving the people’s livelihoods, the unity of the party is the top priority,” he said.

The four-term lawmaker was expected to run in the floor leader election in May.

“It is true that I was preparing for the job,” he said. “But I made a decision to give up my bid because I didn’t want to create an unnecessary dispute amidst the rumors.”

Representative Choi Kyung-hwan, another key Park loyalist, was also determined to stay out of the party leadership election and focus on supporting Park’s presidential campaign.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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