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Could ex-leaders of rival parties form new alliance?

Lee Nak-yon, Lee Jun-seok throw hints they could launch new party ahead of next year’s general election

Dec. 11, 2023 - 15:10 By Jung Min-kyung
Former People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok, left, and former Democratic Party of Korea leader Lee Nak-yon. (Yonhap)

Former leaders of rival parties here have been hinting at the possibility of joining forces to launch a new party ahead of next year’s general election as of Monday, invoking concern and skepticism from other lawmakers.

Former Prime Minister and previous main opposition Democratic Party of Korea leader Rep. Lee Nak-yon along with estranged former leader of the ruling People Power Party Lee Jun-seok have been mentioning each other in various interviews as potential partners to set up a new party for political reform in recent weeks.

Lee Nak-yon, who was the head of the Democratic Party from mid-2020 to early 2021, mentioned the former ruling party head as a potential political partner that he could work with to “save Korea from the fate of crisis.” He has criticized the Democratic Party's current leader, Lee Jae-myung, for "monopolizing the power" within the party.

“I believe people with loyalty and a commitment to save Korea from the fate of crisis should stick together in the same belief,” he told a group of reporters at the National Assembly in Seoul on Sunday.

“I plan to meet the former People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok at the right time,” he added.

But at the same time, the onetime presidential hopeful and ex-Democratic Party leader was cautious about confirming his stance on partnering up with Lee and setting up a new party.

“This doesn’t mean I will meet him soon -- everything has an order,” he explained.

“Someone must prepare to (set up a new party), as it requires several hands-on tasks. I will try to make a choice before it’s too late.”

Lee Jun-seok, who has been expressing a strong willingness to set up a new party, said in a media interview aired Sunday that he is “ready to meet Lee Nak-yon.”

Mirroring the former opposition party head’s moves, Lee Jun-seok also took careful steps on the possibility of launching a new party together.

“It’s a matter that requires an in-depth discussion,” he said.

Other ruling and opposition party lawmakers have expressed concerns and skepticism over the new possibility.

Democratic Party Rep. Kim Min-seok told local broadcaster Christian Broadcasting System in a Monday interview that such a partnership will likely fail in earning support from voters from both sides of the political spectrum.

“It’s never successful without a solid belief. They will fail in earning support from voters across Korea,” he explained.

Meanwhile, a Gallup Korea survey released Sunday involving 1,033 South Koreans aged 18 and older showed that 50 percent had a “negative stance” toward Lee Jun-seok’s possible establishment of a new party. Some 32 percent of respondents said they had a “positive view” of the new party, while 18 percent either replied they were “uncertain” of their viewpoint or refused to reply.

There are no corresponding surveys on Lee Nak-yon at the moment.

The remarks by the two former leaders of the rival parties came before the kick-off of the candidate registration for the 2024 general election on Tuesday. Several lawmakers, including former Busan Mayor Byeon Sung-wan, have started announcing their candidacies as of Monday afternoon.