Heading for a split

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Heading for a split

A move to split the ruling Saenuri Party between lawmakers loyal to President Park Geun-hye and those who are not is gaining momentum after the loyalists plan to appoint four-term lawmaker Yoo Seong-min as head of an emergency committee to manage the embattled party.

After floor leader Chung Woo-taik, a member of the pro-Park faction, said his group would make a decision on the choice of Yoo in a couple of days, lawmakers who are not in the loyalist faction are more likely to leave the party than ever.

It is not easy to for the two factions to live under the same roof after so much friction over whether to vote for a motion to impeach the president. We can hardly find fault with a division of the ruling party because of its weird combination of legislators with distinctly different political inclinations.

The Saenuri is the only conservative party in Korea. If it really takes pride in its unique political status, it must clearly state reasons for the separation when considering the solid support it has received from voters in the past. A major factor in the division of the party is whether former Chairman Kim Moo-sung and former floor leader Yoo Seong-min will depart from the Saenuri at the same time. If followers of Kim and Yoo — both representing South and North Gyeongsang provinces, the home turf of Korean conservatism — join the divisive move, it could have a huge impact on our political scene.

Former Saenuri leader Kim wants to set up a new conservative party before inviting outgoing UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to join and let him compete with Yoo and other presidential hopefuls to represent the party in the next presidential election. Former floor leader Yoo also seems to be leaning toward the establishment of a new party to win the election. In the meantime, Saenuri lawmakers not loyal to the president are carefully measuring the public mood saying, “I will follow Yoo” or “I will leave the party when we can form a negotiation bloc in the National Assembly.” Former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and former Gyeonggi Gov. Kim Moon-soo — also aspirants to the presidency — must take a very prudent approach.

The pro-Park group wants to win the presidential election even if the party is split. They believe a single conservative candidate can be fielded when the time comes.

If they cannot present a grand vision for the future of conservatism, they have no other choice but to vanish into the dustbin of history, just as the liberal Uri Party did — just 45 months after its establishment in 2003.

JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 21, Page 34
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