LKP’s chairman ends 8-day hunger strike

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LKP’s chairman ends 8-day hunger strike

Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) has ended his hunger strike on Thursday, wrapping up his anti-government protest outside the Blue House that has been ongoing since Nov. 20.

“Hwang stopped the hunger strike due to his worsened health condition and strong requests from his family, doctors and the party,” Jun Hee-kyung, spokeswoman of the LKP, said in a press release on Friday. “Starting yesterday afternoon, he is eating porridge and recovering.”

According to Jun, Hwang remains committed to his fight against the ruling party’s attempt to pass contentious prosecutorial reform and election law revision bills. “He also promised to put forth all efforts out to lay bare the three abuse of power allegations involving President Moon Jae-in’s allies,” Jun said.

The 62-year-old conservative politician started a hunger strike on Nov. 20 in protest of the Moon administration’s plan to end a military information-sharing pact with Japan and the ruling Democratic Party (DP)’s plan to pass contentious bills.

He was rushed to Yonsei University’s Severance Hospital in western Seoul when he lost consciousness around 11 p.m. on Wednesday, the eighth day of his outdoor protest, and regained consciousness around 12:50 a.m. on Thursday.

According to Jun, Hwang urged two senior members of the LKP, Shin Bo-ra and Chung Mi-kyung, to stop their hunger strikes. They started their protest outside the Blue House on Thursday in place of Hwang.

Hwang will remain in the hospital for a few days, although his condition has significantly improved. “We are deeply thankful to the people’s support for Hwang’s hunger strike,” Jun said. “We hope for continuous public support for our future fights [against the government and the ruling party].”

Hwang, who was first transported to the emergency room of the hospital, spent his first day in a V.I.P. ward because there was no immediate vacancy available. He moved to a single-bed ward in the general facility on Thursday afternoon.

Hwang’s hunger strike was different from similar protests of many other Korean politicians. Since he started his political career in February this year by winning the chairmanship of the LKP, observers have often pointed out his inexperience compared to other veteran politicians.

Hwang made three demands when he started his hunger strike, while other politicians often present just one clear demand. Last year, Bareunmirae Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu and Justice Party Chairman Lee Jeong-mi staged hunger strikes with one demand - a new type of proportional representation system.

In August 2014, President Moon, then-head of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, a predecessor of the DP, staged a 10-day hunger strike, demanding a special law be established to probe the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in April that year.

Hwang, however, listed three demands. Although the government postponed the scheduled ending of the General Security of Military Information Agreement, or Gsomia, with Japan on Nov. 22 - the first of the three demands, Hwang continued his protest.

Hwang’s hunger strike prompted some criticism. Justice Party Chairwoman Sim Sang-jeung said it is against the law to erect a tent outside the Blue House, but the LKP did so for Hwang. “Just because he is the head of the largest opposition party, he shouldn’t be allowed special treatment like an emperor for his hunger strike,” she said.

LKP officials also took turns to stay near Hwang around the clock, which also promoted criticism from liberal politicians. The LKP officials, however, said it is completely normal for them to support Hwang and prepare for an emergency, questioning what they would do if their party leaders staged a hunger strike.

It also remains to be seen if Hwang’s hunger strike will have any effect on stopping the passage of the contentious bills. Hwang has demanded that a bill to create a new investigative agency for senior public servants and an election law revision bill must not be passed.

The bills are currently on the fast-track process, and National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang had declared that voting will take place anytime after Dec. 3.

While Hwang’s protest further united the LKP lawmakers against the two bills, the ruling DP and other political parties remain committed to them, not budging at all even after Hwang’s hunger strike.

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