Conservative merger is coming

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Conservative merger is coming

The largest opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) will deny nominations to many of its incumbent lawmakers in the upcoming general election and find new faces to attract voters outside the conservative spectrum, Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn said Wednesday.

Hwang hosted a press conference at the party headquarters in the morning ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which falls on Saturday. He promoted a grand conservative merger ahead of the April 15 general election and promised a break from the past in terms of the nomination system for the LKP.

Hwang said unity and innovation are keywords for the LKP’s campaign. “The key to innovation is nominations,” he said. “I will change everything until the people say it is enough.

“The party will not give nominations to one-third of current lawmakers representing constituencies,” Hwang continued. “Eventually, we will replace 50 percent of our incumbent lawmakers. I will redefine the party as a young political party by giving 30 percent of the nominations to politicians in their 20s, 30s and 40s.”

The LKP has 108 lawmakers in the National Assembly, and 91 represent geographical constituencies. The party will not give nominations to at least 30 of them. Some lawmakers have already declared that they won’t seek reelection, and the party wants to introduce at least 54 new faces through its nomination process.

“To complete nomination reform, sacrifice by the leaders, including myself, is the absolute requirement,” Hwang said. “I will do anything.”

He said it is crucial for conservatives to unite against the Moon Jae-in administration. “The administration is using the schism [among conservatives] and violating this country without any reservations,” Hwang said.

“Disagreeing with or delaying a conservative merger will only help the Moon dictatorship,” he continued. “I will accomplish grand unity among all people who oppose the Moon administration.”

Hwang said the party is negotiating with other conservative groups. Over the past week, the LKP has approached the New Conservative Party (NCP) led by Rep. Yoo Seong-min about a merger. It is also participating in the National Integration Solidarity, a group of prominent conservative opinion leaders, politicians and civic groups, to form a new party.

Hwang said he will promote a constitutional amendment to end the current single-term, five-year presidency if the LKP wins the upcoming general election. “Over the past three years, we’ve witnessed the tyranny of Moon,” he said. “We need to change the imperial presidential system.”

He also proposed a one-on-one summit with Moon. “I recall no time that I had an exclusive talk with Moon,” Hwang said. “I strongly urge him to [meet with me] and avoid criticism that he is not communicating with the opposition leader.”

In a separate meeting with reporters, the NCP’s Yoo said Wednesday, “Talks with the LKP for a merger will begin today.”

He, however, said he has no immediate plan to have a one-on-one meeting with Hwang.

Yoo said his party has no intention of participating in a new conservative party if it includes the Our Republican Party. That party, which has two lawmakers, is a faithful to disgraced former fPresident Park Geun-hye.

Meanwhile, Jeju Gov. Won Hee-ryong visited the National Assembly and met with Hwang. “A conservative merger must be able to persuade the centrist people with a bold determination to bid farewell to the old practices and expand its political scope,” Won told Hwang.

Won, who built his political career with the Saenuri Party, a predecessor of the LKP, won the governorship in 2018 as an independent. Park Hyung-joon, head of the National Integration Solidarity, met with Won on Tuesday and urged his participation in a new conservative party.

The National Integration Solidarity said Wednesday that it plans to launch a new party, with the LKP and NCP, next month. It will make a public announcement of the conservative merger process on Jan. 31 and complete the launch of the new party by the middle of February.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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