Spinoff party to launch Jan. 24

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Spinoff party to launch Jan. 24

Saenuri lawmakers said on Monday they will launch a new party on Jan. 24, following their defection from the party today, as they feel it is still being controlled by pro-Park lawmakers despite the president’s impeachment.

“About 30 Saenuri lawmakers will declare their defections from the party tomorrow and the second phase of defection will subsequently follow early next month,” said Rep. Oh Shin-hwan, who has been serving as a spokesman of the party launch preparatory committee, before reporters on Monday.

Park opponents initially anticipated 35 lawmakers would defect today, but some who earlier stated their intention to leave were reportedly having a hard time explaining reasons for their defection to their constituents, especially those in the Gyeongsang region, a traditional Saenuri stronghold.

Rep. Oh said he expected the total number of defectors would reach at least 34 before the Jan. 24 launch date. Following the defections, the Park opponents will select a floor leader to steer party affairs.

If 30 or more Saenuri lawmakers declare their defection today as promised, it will mark the biggest split of the conservative party in Korean political history. While there have been divisions and splits among the conservatives in the past, no more than 20 lawmakers have ever left the party before.

Parties with 20 or more incumbent lawmakers are considered negotiation bodies, which can send representatives to negotiate legislative calendars and receive higher state subsidies than parties with fewer than 20 lawmakers.

The nascent party, tentatively titled Gaehyeok Bosu Shindang, or the New Conservative Party for Reform, showed a potential to expand its support base and eat into the Saenuri’s when it ranked third in approval with 12.4 percent of support in a poll conducted last Thursday and Friday, even though it has not yet been formed. Saenuri was slightly ahead with a 16 percent approval rating. Minjoo ranked first with 37.1 percent.

With the Jan. 24 launch of the new party, the Saenuri will find itself in a tough position competing against four opposition parties, three of which will hold negotiation power.

Should 35 Saenuri lawmakers join the new party, the Saenuri Party will see its number of lawmakers reduced from 128 to 93 and government subsidies will be slashed by 2.8 billion won($2.3 million) to 12.8 billion won. The Minjoo Party is also expected to see government subsidies cut by 2 billion won from the current 14.4 billion won. Assuming the party has 35 lawmakers under its wing next month, the four opposition parties will have a majority of 207 lawmakers.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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