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Main opposition party grapples with widening internal rift

Rep. Ko Min-jung leaves Supreme Council criticizing party’s candidate nomination process

Feb. 27, 2024 - 19:33 By Jung Min-kyung
Rep. Ko Min-jung of the main opposition Democratic Party, declares her resignation as a member of the party's Supreme Council during a news conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday, denouncing the party's alleged "unfair" process to nominate candidates for the April 10 general elections. (Yonhap)

An existing fissure within the main opposition party has widened as several lawmakers have taken steps in response to conflict over the party’s candidate nomination process for the upcoming general election.

Democratic Party of Korea Rep. Ko Min-jung on Tuesday announced her resignation as a member of the party’s Supreme Council, saying that she believes the party should openly discuss its election candidate nomination process, which has been criticized as biased towards the pro-Lee Jae-myung faction.

“I thought that the leadership should eliminate the mistrust and conflict (surrounding the party's nomination process) through taking responsibility and intensive discussion. However, what they told me was to step down from the Supreme Council,” she said in a surprise press conference held at the National Assembly Tuesday afternoon.

She added that “questions about whether nominations are unfair continue to be raised,” calling on the party leadership to address the issue.

Ko’s announcement follows the party leadership’s decision to deny Im Jong-seok, a former presidential chief of staff under the previous Moon Jae-in administration, the nomination to run in his stronghold Jung-Seongdong district in Seoul. Instead, they tapped Jeon Hyun-heui, the former chairperson of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission. Im had so far served as a two-term lawmaker representing the district both times.

Several who are classified as part of the non-Lee faction of the party either mirrored Ko’s stance or announced their departure. Many have expressed disappointment with being snubbed and the leadership’s decision to place several of them in the lower 20 percentile according to their evaluation as candidates for the election.

Rep. Noh Woong-rae launched a hunger strike after the leadership picked another candidate to run for his stronghold of Seoul’s Mapo-gu. Four-term lawmaker and Deputy National Assembly Speaker Rep. Kim Young-joo, Rep. Lee Su-jin and Rep. Park Young-soon also announced their departure from the party.

While Chair Lee Jae-myung and the party's nomination committee chief, Im Hyug-baeg, have denied accusations of favoring candidates from the pro-Lee faction, the majority of the candidates at the moment are considered the current main opposition chief’s aides.

In December, ex-Prime Minister and former leader of the Democratic Party Lee Nak-yon left the main opposition party denouncing Lee Jae-myung’s monopolization of power. Lee Nak-yon has since established his own party.