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Return of defectors from Bareun sparks a rift in the LKP

May 12,2017
The Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is showing signs of an internal rift as party chairman Chung Woo-taik reiterated his objection to accepting former party members who had left to join the Bareun Party four months ago.

In a radio interview with MBC Thursday, the party chief said it was “wrong” to accept the former members without respect to party regulations, noting there are many party lawmakers who still hold grudges against them for their perceived betrayal.

A group of about 30 former LKP members abandoned the party in December and January to form the conservative Bareun Party after watching those close to former President Park Geun-hye hold onto key party positions. But as the party and its presidential candidate, Yoo Seong-min, failed to reach double-digit approval, 12 Bareun lawmakers jumped ship again - this time back to the LKP.

Following their declaration of homecoming, then-LKP candidate Hong Joon-pyo announced he would take them all back without going through party regulations, citing his authority to exercise such a move as the LKP standard-bearer.

But now that the election is over and Hong has lost by the widest margin in Korean history, 5.56 million votes, the party leadership is less willing to submit to Hong’s authority. The conservatives have now lost control of national affairs for the first time in 10 years, after taking power in 2007 when Lee Myung-bak was elected president.

“A decision on whether to take them back should be addressed by the party’s supreme council,” said the LKP chief, who also noted their applications for party membership could be rejected if the leadership decided to do so. With the LKP chairman showing no intention to follow through on Hong’s decision, the fate of the 12 former Bareun members is up in the air.

Hong’s decision to accept them has been seen as an attempt to bolster his influence within the party once the election was over, with the knowledge that he was likely to lose to Moon. Should Hong decide to make a comeback, analysts predict he will aim for the top party post.

Hong made it clear he has no intention to retire from politics in a Facebook post Wednesday. “I will take this year’s election not as an end but as a new beginning,” said the former South Gyeongsang governor. He and his wife will depart for the United States today to visit their son and his family. He plans to return after a month.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]