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People’s Party defectors launch new liberal party

Feb. 6, 2018 - 16:57 By Jo He-rim
Lawmakers who bolted from the minor opposition People’s Party launched a new liberal party Tuesday, ending a monthslong dispute over the leadership’s push to merge with a center-right political faction.

Fifteen lawmakers and their supporters held an inauguration ceremony of Party for Democracy and Peace at the National Assembly and declared its goal to be a party that puts the livelihood of the people as its priority and promote reform in politics. 

Cho Bae-sook, the leader of the new Party for Democracy and Peace, waves the party`s flag during a convention marking its creation at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

As the lawmakers are closely associated with late President Kim Dae-jung, they also vowed to advocate for Kim’s “Sunshine Policy” to promote bolder engagement with North Korea and bring peace to the Korean Peninsula.

During the ceremony, the lawmakers selected four-term lawmaker Rep. Cho Bae-sook as the party’s chairwoman and three-term Rep. Chang Byoung-wan as the floor leader. Cho was the head of the preparatory committee for the establishment of the party. Reps. Kim Kyung-jin and Jeong In-hwa were picked as the party’s election campaign chief and secretary-general, respectively.

“We need a party that can stop the old, evil conservative factions from taking the majority at the National Assembly. And we stood against the dichotomous parliament dominated by two major parties and finally realized the mulitparty system people have longed for,” Chairwoman Cho said at the ceremony. “We will gather power to do away with the wrongdoings of the past and become a winning party.”

The left-leaning lawmakers defected from the People’s Party on Monday after protracted opposition against leader Ahn Cheol-soo’s drive to merge with the center-right Bareun Party. Since Ahn presented the merger plan early this year, the dissenters have opposed the notion, saying the two parties have different ideological roots and policies.

Proportional Reps. Lee Sang-don, Chang Jung-sook and Park Joo-hyun, who also oppose the merger, sought to quit the party but could not, as that would result in the loss of their parliamentary seats. Ahn refused to expel them to prevent their defection.

With 15 assemblymen, the party will not form a parliamentary negotiating bloc, which requires at least 20 lawmakers. However, it becomes the fourth-largest group at the National Assembly.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea currently holds 121 seats, closely followed by the main opposition Liberty Korea Party at 117 and trailed by the People’s Party with 24.

Ahn and Chairman Yoo Seong-min of the center-right Bareun Party will hold a joint national convention on Feb. 13 to finalize the two parties’ merger.

By Jo He-rim (