LKP convention is on despite summit overlap

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LKP convention is on despite summit overlap

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) decided on Friday not to postpone its convention to elect a new leadership scheduled for Feb. 27 in spite of the fact that it overlaps with the second U.S.-North Korea summit in Vietnam.

The decision to stick to the original date is expected to shake up the party, since most of the candidates running for party chairman had put intense pressure on the leadership to postpone the event.

In a rare show of agreement, six of the contenders - including former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and former LKP chairman and one-time presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo - announced around noon on Friday that they would boycott a convention on the 27th if the event was not postponed.

Four of the lower polling candidates, all sitting lawmakers, produced a joint statement demanding it be delayed for at least two weeks. They also called for the party to arrange at least six televised debates before the convention to allow candidates to raise their public profiles.

The remaining two candidates, former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Rep. Kim Jin-tae, did not partake in the pledged boycott, with Hwang - the favorite to win based on recent polls - arguing the event should take place as scheduled.

Hong Joon-pyo went even further on Wednesday to suggest on Facebook that the scheduling of the U.S.-North Korea summit on the same day as the LKP convention was a “ploy by the Moon [Jae-in] administration” to minimize its effect. “It is the same kind [of plot] behind the [first] U.S.-North Korea talks held at Singapore a day before the last local elections,” Hong argued. Floor leader Na Kyung-won also made a similar implication of conspiracy.

While these theories did little more than invite scorn from politicians from other parties, they testified to how sensitive candidates are about the coming leadership race, which analysts say is a crucial stepping stone for some contenders to a presidential bid in 2022.

The candidates have been fiercely competing for support from disgraced former President Park Geun-hye, with some even suggesting that Park - currently in jail for power abuse and corruption - be pardoned.

For Hwang, that support appeared all but guaranteed given that he served as Park’s last prime minister and interim president during her impeachment trial in 2017. But a bombshell statement by Park’s lawyer on a conservative TV program on Thursday threw everything into doubt after the attorney, Yoo Young-ha, suggested that Park does not regard Hwang as the ally that her supporters believe he is.

“[The person] who made him [Hwang] justice minister and prime minister is now in jail,” said Yoo, the only person who meets Park on a regular basis. “Her prisoner identification number was all over the internet but he didn’t know what it was.”

“That tells you everything,” he said, adding that Park remains upset about the fact that Hwang did not try to improve her accommodations in prison as interim president after she was detained in March 2017.

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