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LKP orders its district leaders to step down

Sept 21,2018
Korea’s main opposition party plunged into turmoil on Thursday after its interim head ordered all district leaders to step down from their positions by Oct. 1 in a reform drive aimed at sprucing up the party before the legislative elections in 2020.

Following an emergency council meeting in the morning, Kim Byung-joon, interim head of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), announced at a news conference at the National Assembly on Thursday that all 253 party heads for each electoral district in the country would be removed from their posts.

The position is the party’s representative in that district. If the district is represented by an LKP lawmaker, the lawmaker is usually the party’s representative. If not, it is often the LKP candidate most likely to run for a seat in that district.

Kim said the council unanimously approved the move. “This is not a personnel change aimed at a certain figure or faction,” he said.

Kim hinted at the decision on Wednesday during a lecture in Busan, where he said people with values compatible with the party’s new direction would be appointed to fill the empty posts through a revised vetting process. In a phone conversation with the JoongAng Ilbo that day, Kim added that the measure would serve as a springboard for overhauling the party’s internal nomination process.

Those statements immediately drew fierce resistance from lawmakers and party members loyal to former President Park Geun-hye. Rep. Park Duk-hyum argued that the party’s rule book did not allow the removal of all regional party bosses from their positions and said such decisions should be approached with caution.

Kim took over the beleaguered party in July after it suffered its worst electoral defeat in June. The party lost all but two out of 17 major races in the country. With its image still tainted by ties to Park, who was impeached last year on corruption charges, the LKP sought a new leader to guide it out of crisis following the resignation of controversial party boss Hong Joon-pyo.

It found that person in Kim only after being snubbed by other notable figures, an indication of how hard it would be to purge the party of its associations to Park and Hong. The heart of the problem, political analysts say, lies in the fact that the LKP continues to be dominated by the faction loyal to Park, both in the party’s upper ranks and at regional branches.

Kim’s latest measure is aimed at wresting influence away from Park loyalists, who are far-right and staunchly anti-communist, as the party prepares to find candidates for the legislative elections in April 2020. Analysts say the pro-Park group will certainly put up stiff resistance to such attempts to push them out, potentially leading to a splinter before the elections.

BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [shim.kyuseok@joongang.co.kr]