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Ruling party reform committee disbands early, says job half done

Dec. 7, 2023 - 15:14 By Jung Min-kyung
Yohan Ihn, head of the ruling People Power Party's reform committee, announces the group's early disbandment during a press briefing at the ruling party headquarters in Yeouido on Thursday. (Yonhap)

The South Korean ruling party’s reform committee announced its early disbandment on Thursday, with its head saying that it saw it as “50 percent successful” in laying out its vision.

The People Power Party’s committee, which was formed on Oct. 26 to lay out a vision for realigning the party for the 2024 general election, decided to disband in a largely expected move. The disbandment came some two weeks before the committee's initial plan to disband by Dec. 24.

The committee had faced an internal backlash over its unpopular demands and for failing to align its vision with the needs of the party leadership.

“The committee effectively disbands today,” committee Chair Yohan Ihn, a party outsider, physician and third-generation descendant of a US missionary to Korea, known also as John Linton, said in a press briefing. The briefing was held after the 12th and last meeting of the committee.

“I’d like to express gratitude to President Yoon Suk Yeol for carrying out an early Cabinet reshuffle before the committee’s disbandment, allowing great candidates to participate in the upcoming election,” Ihn said.

“I believe (the committee’s vision) was 50 percent successful and realized what the public wanted eye-to-eye. I take pride in this and will choose to hand over the last 50 percent to the party and wait for the results with expectations,” he added.

But hinting at the intense conflicts the committee had faced with party's current leadership, Ihn, addressing People Power Party Chair Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon, said that “(the opportunity to lead the committee) was a learning experience that taught me how politics can be rough and difficult.”

Ihn and Kim met in a brief 17-minute-long meeting on Wednesday but failed to get on the same page over the party’s election blueprint. Before Wednesday’s meeting, many observers interpreted Yoon’s luncheon with the party’s leadership on Tuesday, as his decision to take a side with them.

The committee had announced a series of reform measures that pushed for ruling party lawmakers to tackle more traditionally opposition party-friendly areas, irking several People Power Party lawmakers. It barred lawmakers who already served multiple terms in parts of the country from reentering election in the areas that were traditionally ruling party turf.

So far, the committee was able to carry out only one of its six reform plans, which it had set following its launch in October. The People Power Party granted amnesty to multiple lawmakers who were under membership suspension, including former party chief Lee Jun-seok and Daegu Mayor Hong Joon-pyo last month, heeding the committee’s request.

The other five goals -- including its plan to push ruling party lawmakers to run for election in places where the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea has strong support -- failed to materialize.