Chungcheong lawmakers look to UN chief

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Chungcheong lawmakers look to UN chief

After 35 Saenuri lawmakers outside the pro-Park Geun-hye faction said Wednesday they will defect from the party en masse next week, the JoongAng Ilbo surveyed lawmakers of Chungcheong about whether they would also leave the ruling party.

A number of the 14 lawmakers of the Chungcheong region are considering leaving the Saenuri Party, depending on UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose second term expires at the end of the year and who is expected to return to Korea in January.

The newspaper asked 13 Chungcheong lawmakers whether they would leave the party after the return of the UN chief, and seven responded they would “follow the decision of Secretary General Ban.”

Rep. Hong Moon-pyo, three-term lawmaker of Hongseong and Yesan counties in South Chungcheong, is already a part of the faction that announced it would leave the party and was not included in the survey.

Ban is likely to be a conservative presidential candidate should he run.

The diplomat gave the strongest signals to date that he will run in next year’s presidential election as he spoke to Korean reporters in New York on Tuesday, saying, “I am willing to devote myself to help in any way for the development of Korea by reflecting on lessons I have learned from my service as UN Secretary General.”

Ban is a native of Chungcheong, which has long been considered a crucial swing region in elections. Lawmakers from North Chungcheong, where Ban’s hometowns of Eumseong County and Cheongju are located, look to follow Ban’s movement. They are Kyeong Dae-soo of Jeungpyeong and Jincheon counties, Lee Jong-bae of Cheongju and Kwon Sok-chang of Danyang County and Jecheon.

“If the secretary general has a move envisioned, I will decide on my place,” said Rep. Kwon. “Now, the Saenuri Party does not have a clear presidential candidate and a decision reflecting local sentiment will be made.”

Rep. Kyung, in a recent interview with media, said he would also follow Ban’s decision.

Likewise, four lawmakers from Daejeon and the South Chungcheong region also said they would go with Ban - South Chungcheong’s Chung Jin-suk, from Gongju, often referred to as Ban’s “political messenger”; Lee Myoung-su, a third-term lawmaker of Asan; Park Chan-woo of Cheonan; and Sung Il-jong of Taean County and Seosan.

“I believe Secretary General Ban will speak of the presidential campaign schedule after he returns to Korea,” Chung, a former floor leader, said, “and will be gathering strength with political comrades to be helpful to him.”

“I agree with the intentions of those who defected the party ahead of the elections under the banner of a new type of conservatism,” Rep. Lee said, “but there has to be a process of consulting with the local people, as well.”

Daejeon’s Rep. Lee Eun-kwon of Jung District and Rep. Jeong Yong-ki of Daedeok District did not yet respond to the survey, but indicated that they will make a decision after observing Ban’s abilities as a conservative candidate.

Chung Woo-taik, a President Park Geun-hye loyalist elected as Saenuri’s new floor leader last week who represents Sangdang District in Cheongju, North Chungcheong, will stay in the Saenuri Party and said, “I will focus on fixing this party.” He added, “I’m not pro-Park. Depending on the vision Secretary General Ban sets forth, I will reflect over what I can do to help.”

“I am neutral,” Rep. Lee said. “I will make a decision depending on Ban’s path.”

Rep. Park Duk-hyum of Boeun and Okcheon counties of North Chungcheong, a Park loyalist, could not be reached.

BY PARK YU-MI, HEO JIN, SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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