LKP chairman willing to resign after mergerChairman Hwang Kyo-ahn of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) has expressed his intention to surrender his leadership post if the ongoing negotiations about a conservative merger produce a new party.
In an exclusive interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday, Hwang said it is crucial for all politicians in the liberal democratic front to be united to counter the Moon Jae-in administration. “To this end, all of us need determinations to give up what we have,” he said.
During the interview in his office at the National Assembly, Hwang discussed his ambition for a grand conservative merger ahead of the April 15 general election to defeat the ruling Democratic Party (DP). The LKP and the New Conservative Party (NCP) of Rep. Yoo Seong-min had their first negotiations on a merger on Tuesday. The NCP was created earlier this month with politicians, including Yoo, who left the centrist Bareunmirae Party.
Asked if he is willing to step down from the LKP chairmanship for a merger, Hwang said he will. “In order to save the country and judge the Moon administration, it is necessary for us two [Hwang and Yoo] to merge,” Hwang said. “During this process, I have to give up what I need to give up.”
The answer was an apparent response to Yoo’s demand on Jan. 15, when he said, “When you build a new house, an old one must be torn down and a new person will become its owner.”
“When a party is created through a merger, it needs a new change,” Hwang added.
Hwang also did not rule out the possibility of having one-on-one negotiations with Yoo before the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Saturday. “A meeting can take place at any moment,” he said. “We need unity among the rightists who respect the values of the constitution. Only then, we can hand down a judgment to the Moon administration.”
Hwang said he has given the full authority to former National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyong-o to make nominations for the LKP. “We must change our candidates more aggressively than the ruling Democratic Party (DP),” he said. “It is possible that over 50 percent of the incumbent lawmakers won’t be able to win nominations.”
Asked if he will run in Jongno District of Seoul, where the DP will likely field former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, Hwang said the decision is still pending. “It is more important for our party to win the majority, rather than winning just one [symbolic] race,” Hwang said. “I will run in any district that will help our party the most.”
He still left the possibility open that he would enter the legislature as a proportional representative. “I won’t say it is completely out of my options,” he said.
In addition to the negotiation with the NCP for a merger, Hwang said the LKP will continue its participation in the National Integration Solidarity, comprised of opinion leaders, activists and politicians, to form a new conservative party.
He also did not rule out a possibility of forming an alliance with Ahn Cheol-soo, former chairman of the Bareunmirae Party. After months of self-imposed exile, Ahn resumed his political career this week.
“Anyone who respects the constitutional values must unite for a greater cause,” Hwang said. “The greater cause is judging the Moon administration and restoring this country. To this end, we must work together.”
Ahn, however, told reporters on Monday that he has no plan to meet with Hwang.
Hwang also admitted to his presidential ambition. “If there is a need for me, I will run,” he said. “It is not to win the office, but to save the country.”
He has built his career as a prosecutor and served as justice minister and prime minister for the impeached former President Park Geun-hye. He joined the LKP on Jan. 15, 2019, and won the chairmanship of the party just 43 days later, starting his political career.
He said his approval rating as a presidential candidate is not going up because it is hard for voters to change their positions. “When they see the outcome of the general elections, they will change their minds,” he said.
Meanwhile, the National Integration Solidarity said Tuesday it has tried to recruit Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong to its initiative. The group’s chairman, Park Hyung-joon, visited Jeju and requested Won, who won the post as an independent in 2018, to join the solidarity. Won is considered a prominent conservative presidential contender.
Following their meeting, Park told reporters that Won promised to give serious thought to his offer. “I told Won my hope that he will make the decision before the Lunar New Year holiday,” Park said.
Won served three terms as a lawmaker of the Saenuri Party, the predecessor of the LKP, in Yangcheon A District of Seoul. He won the election for Jeju governor in 2014, but left the party to join the Bareunmirae Party in 2017 during the political turmoil over Park’s impeachment. He, however, left the Bareunmirae Party again in 2018 and was reelected as Jeju governor as an independent.
Asked about the deadline of the conservative merger, Park said Tuesday that a new political party needs to formally launch around Feb. 15.
“The clock is ticking,” he said.
BY HYUN IL-HOON, SER MYO-JA [email@example.com]