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Yoo wins Bareun Party primary

Before the May 9 election, he may now face a coalition race
Mar 29,2017
이미지뷰
Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party, a spin-off conservative party, reacts to his supporters on Tuesday after winning the party’s primary nomination. [YONHAP]
Rep. Yoo Seong-min, who built a national profile largely based on his resistance to then President Park Geun-hye in 2015, was elected Tuesday as the presidential candidate of the Bareun Party.

“I will be at the forefront of rebuilding the conservatives in this country,” Yoo said in his acceptance speech. “I will become the hope of the new conservatives. By putting together the people’s desire to rebuild the conservatives, I will win the voters with dignity in the upcoming presidential election.”

Yoo said conservatives are in crisis due to the public rage toward Park, ousted for her abuse of power and corruption on March 10, but the wrongdoings of Park and her loyalists do not justify condemnation toward all conservatives. “Criticizing the former president alone doesn’t make you qualified to lead this country,” he said.

“If you vote for the opposition just because you loathe the Park administration, you will elect yet another regrettable president,” Yoo said, stressing that he is a strong conservative candidate who is capable of fighting the liberal presidential frontrunner Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party.

Yoo won the primary against Gyeonggi Governor Nam Kyung-pil to represent the Bareun Party in the May 9 presidential election. The center-right political party was created at the end of last year by dozens of lawmakers who abandoned the ruling party in the aftermath of the abuse of power and corruption scandal that later terminated Park’s presidency.

Bareun currently has 33 lawmakers and is the fourth largest party in the legislature.

Yoo’s candidacy was confirmed at the party’s convention, which was held at the Olympic Hall in southeastern Seoul. A vote by 3,000 delegates took place Tuesday to finalize Yoo’s candidacy.

The party had already conducted public policy evaluations, public opinion polls and online voting over the past weeks, and Tuesday’s outcome was factored in to decide the candidate.

Of the five parties in the National Assembly, Bareun is the second to fix its presidential candidate. The Justice Party ended its primary in February and named Rep. Sim Sang-jeung its candidate. The Liberty Korea Party, formerly known as the Saenuri Party, will finalize its candidate on Friday and the Democratic Party will name its candidate on Monday. The People’s Party’s primary will conclude Tuesday.

Yoo, 59, is an economist and a fourth-term lawmaker. He represents Dong B District of his hometown, Daegu.

Yoo served as Park’s chief of staff when she was a lawmaker in 2005, but they parted bitterly in 2015 after she publicly condemned Yoo for “politics of betrayal” over a deal he brokered with (the opposition parties). Yoo was forced to resign from the floor leader post and became an icon of resistance to Park.

After he asked to run in Daegu’s Dong B District for a fourth term, Park loyalists denied him a Saenuri nomination. They claimed Yoo’s ideology differs from the party. Yoo left the Saenuri on the eve of the (April 2016) general election, ran independently and won.

He and his independent allies then rejoined the party in June 2016, only to leave and create the Bareun Party in the aftermath of the presidential scandal.

During the primary, Yoo concentrated on resolutions to the plummeting birth rate and low growth of Korea. Although a conservative, many of his pledges are considered center-left.

“Yoo does not think protecting the establishment at all costs should be the mission of conservatives,” Rep. Kim Seo-yeon, a Yoo ally, said. “He wants to present the resolutions most needed because the economic and social structures are changing.”

Yoo’s first pledge was to guarantee a three-year maternity leave. He also pledged to offer a 100,000 won ($89.90) monthly childcare allowance for each grade-school child and double the financial assistance for families who do not use public childcare programs.

Yoo also promised to guarantee the minimum standard of living by removing the clause that no assistance is to be offered when a family member is economically active. Often, many in need fail to receive assistance due to estranged or irresponsible family members who are documented as having income.

“We need a change in the paradigm that the society and state, not the family, will take responsibility for poverty,” Yoo said.

He also promised to increase the national pension minimum and tax benefits for small and medium-size companies, and to increase the minimum wage to 10,000 won in three years.

In addition, he vowed to reform chaebol-friendly policies and promised he will not give pardons to tycoons for their convictions if he becomes the president.

Yoo’s education and defense pledges were to be announced after his candidacy is finalized. He is an active supporter of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) deployment. He said the government must purchase more Thaad batteries, in addition to its current Korea Air Missile Defense system, because the current plan to place one Thaad unit in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, will not protect Seoul, Incheon or Gyeonggi.

While Yoo’s primary victory was fixed Tuesday, he may face another race before reaching the May 9 election if conservatives try to form an alliance to increase their chance against Moon. Moon, narrowly defeated in the 2012 presidential election by Park, will likely win the Democratic Party’s primary next week.

On Monday, Yoo said any conservative coalition that might be formed from a candidate merger must have principles to win public support, suggesting that purging Park loyalists is a precondition for his alliance with the Liberty Korea Party. On Tuesday, the party’s acting head, In Myung-jin, responded that additional reform measures will be taken if that is necessary for the alliance.

South Gyeongsang Governor Hong Joon-pyo, the frontrunner of the Liberty Korea Party’s primary, also supports the idea of a coalition.

“Even if I win the nomination, I will be nothing more than the host of a funeral,” Hong said Monday. “Winning the primary is not important. How to turn the tables in the presidential election is important.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]