Saenuri would-be defectors plan their exit

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Saenuri would-be defectors plan their exit

A group of lawmakers of the Saenuri faction against President Park Geun-hye announced they will make concrete plans for a mass defection of the ruling party amid internal feuding on Wednesday.

“We agreed that it is no longer the time to be evading the situation and we need to gather our minds and take action,” said Rep. Hwang Young-cheul, a spokesman of the faction supporting the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, on Tuesday.

The three-term lawmaker said that the choice that has befallen them is one of “splitting.”

Rep. Hwang said an understanding was reached with 13 other lawmakers on Tuesday, including Kim Moo-sung, the former chairman of the Saenuri Party, and Rep. Joo Ho-young, a four-term lawmaker, at a luncheon meeting earlier that day.

They agreed to take steps to make concrete plans for defection by holding an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning, where they would announce their decision.

The lawmaker conveyed that there is a possibility they could come up with a declaration to defect en masse through this meeting. Hwang elaborated that the details of the defection from the party “will be announced within this week.” He said he anticipates “no matter what the situation,” that over 20 lawmakers would defect.

This number will be enough to warrant a negotiating bloc within the National Assembly.

The Saenuri Party has suffered from internal feuding amid the president’s alleged corruption scandal involving her influence-peddling confidante Choi Soon-sil, which culminated in Park’s parliamentary impeachment earlier this month.

As the question of whether Saenuri would splinter loomed Tuesday, the ruling party in the morning held a general meeting to decide on an interim leader for its emergency planning committee.

The faction against Park has pushed for Rep. Yoo Seong-min, who has been a Park dissenter since his days as the former Saenuri floor leader last year, as the new interim leader.

The interim leader would fill in the void until a new party chair is elected next month to replace the position left by Lee Jung-hyun, the pro-Park chairman of Saenuri. They declared their intent to defect from the party should the pro-Park faction block Yoo as the interim head.

But Rep. Chung Woo-taik, a Park loyalist, who was elected as the new floor leader last week to the dismay of the dissenting faction, has opposed Yoo taking on the new emergency interim leadership.

The anti-Park faction strengthened its resolve to leave, said Hwang, after they concluded the pro-Park faction is sabotaging Rep. Yoo from becoming the interim party leader.

Rep. Chung told reporters on Tuesday, “We cannot have an interim leader that aggravates strife and discord [within the party]. Yoo has to explain for himself why he has to be the leader instead of someone else.”

The dissenting faction interpreted this as a rejection by the mainstream Saenuri lawmakers of Yoo as interim head.

The mainstream faction, according to lawmakers, named former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik, independent Sohn Hak-kyu, former Democratic Party chairman, and Lee Hoi-chang, former head of the Grand National Party, as possible interim leaders.

Hwang said that based on the discussions in the lawmakers’ general meeting, “We cannot help but determine that our last proposal to name Rep. Yoo as the interim leader was denied.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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