People’s Party loses its chief campaign guru

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People’s Party loses its chief campaign guru

The internal discord between Ahn Cheol-soo, co-chairman of the newly formed People’s Party, and his fellow party leaders over a merger proposal by the main opposition hit a new high on Friday when Rep. Kim Han-gill resigned from his post as chief campaign manager.

In a statement released to local media, Kim was candid in explaining that he and Ahn had major differences in opinion about how to conduct the campaign for April’s general election.

Ahn has repeatedly quashed any hint of a merger or electoral alliance with the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, saying he would rather “die in the wilderness” as a People’s Party member.

In stark contrast to that are Rep. Chun Jung-bae, a co-chairman of the party, and Kim, who have insisted on the need for a “remarriage” between the parties.

Chun and Kim are worried that heading separate ways would allow the ruling Saenuri Party to win enough seats in the April 13 general election to not only win a majority but also two-thirds of the National Assembly seats, with which they could amend the constitution unilaterally.

Ahn says his main goal is to give Korea a three-party political system.

“I beseeched him,” Kim wrote in his statement on Friday. “But he wouldn’t back down, and for that reason, I have decided to resign.”

Kim has yet to declare whether he will return to the Minjoo Party just two months after he left.

Kim Chong-in, the interim leader of the Minjoo Party who initially brought up the merger proposal a week ago, already mentioned on Wednesday that he would accept Kim back.

Echoing Kim Han-gill’s stance, Chun did not show up at any of the key party meetings on Friday. His aides told media sources that the co-chairman might leave the People’s Party “with other members” if Ahn doesn’t budge.

Chun is also a former member of the main opposition party. He left in 2015 to run in a by-election and won his fifth term.

Ahn, who this week laid out his plans to seek re-election in Nowon District, northern Seoul, has so far remained silent.

When asked by reporters for his thoughts on Kim’s resignation, Ahn only replied on Friday that he would “talk about that issue another time” and switched topics.

On March 2, Kim Chong-in invited politicians who abandoned the party earlier to return. Ahn himself defected from the party late last year amid a rupture with the party’s then-chairman, Moon Jae-in.

Since December, more than a dozen lawmakers left the Minjoo Party to protest the leadership of Moon, ultimately leading the former presidential candidate to resign and surrender authority to Kim Chong-in.

While Kim Han-gill and Chun have consistently pushed Ahn to accept the merger deal, the maverick has staunchly refused, also turning down the possibility of an electoral alliance in the capital area of Seoul, Incheon and Gyeonggi.

On Thursday night, after a failed discussion with Kim and Chun, Ahn reaffirmed his ambition to make Korea a three-party system, saying that only then will the National Assembly cease its constant bickering.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, JUNG HYO-SIK [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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