Liberal icon Rhyu Si-min retiring from politics

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Liberal icon Rhyu Si-min retiring from politics

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Rhyu Si-min, former minister of health and welfare and an iconic politician of liberalism, unexpectedly announced his intention to retire from politics via SNS yesterday.

“Before it is too late, I want to find a life that I want, so I will leave ‘politics as an occupation,’?” Rhyu of the minor opposition Progressive Justice Party wrote on his Twitter account. “Thanks to all those people who have supported the politician Rhyu Si-min over the past 10 years. Please forgive me for leaving without returning anything.”

Rhyu served as health minister between 2006-7 during the Roh Moon-hyun administration.

Rhyu’s first dalliance with politics was in 1988 when he served as an aide to former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan. Rhyu started a formal political career in 2002. Rhyu became a lawmaker through a by-election in April 2003 and was elected again as a lawmaker on the proportional representation roster of the Uri Party, a predecessor of the Democratic United Party, from 2004 to 2008.

The 54-year-old Gyeongju native chaired the People’s Participatory Party, which merged with two other minor opposition parties to become the Unified Progressive Party in December 2011. Rhyu served as a co-chairman of the strife-ridden UPP before he defected last October due to ideological differences with its pro-North Korean faction.

He and other UPP core members such as Roh Hoe-chan and Sim Sang-jeung formed the Progressive Justice Party following the controversy surrounding the UPP’s vote-rigging of a primary for the April 11 legislative elections in 2012.

The vote-rigging scandal led to prosecutors’ indictment in November of over 460 core UPP members, shaking the minor opposition party to the core.

Following the split, Rhyu opted not to serve as a chair of the PJP.

Rhyu, a democratic activist in the 1980s against the Chun Doo Hwan regime, was critical of presidential candidate Lee Jung-hee of the UPP during the December presidential election.

The PJP also faces rocky times with Roh, the party co-chairman, recently losing his parliamentary seat after the Supreme Court upheld his conviction for violating the communications privacy act and going public with a conversation that had been illegally taped.

While Rhyu is stepping down from politics, he will remain a member of the party, the Progressive Justice Party indicated.

The PJP indicated that Rhyu’s decision was not sudden. Rhyu’s has a book soon to be released entitled, “How I Am Going to Live,” and he plans to lecture. “The new spirit he brought into politics will be appreciated,” said Kim Jung-hyun, a Democratic United Party deputy spokesman.


By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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