+ A

LKP head faces growing opposition from party

June 26,2018
Kim Sung-tae, the acting head of Korea’s largest opposition party, is facing a test of leadership as members are voicing opposition to his bold reform plan after the conservatives’ worst electoral defeat this month.

Kim announced the formation of a preparatory committee on Monday for the party’s emergency reform committee. He named three-term lawmaker Ahn Sang-soo to lead the preparatory committee.

Ahn, a former Incheon mayor, is not affiliated with any particular faction in the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) and considered a neutral broker in the fractured party.

“We will have an LKP reborn through reform and innovation,” Kim said at a meeting with lawmakers. “We will not miss out on the last opportunity that the people have given to us.”

Kim hopes the preparatory committee can find someone to lead the LKP’s emergency reform committee and overcome the challenges facing the conservative party after it lost all but two key races in local-level elections on June 13.

Other members of the preparatory committee have similar factionless backgrounds. The LKP is currently divided between supporters of ex-President Park Geun-hye and those who opposed her. The pro-Park faction is currently larger.

Bae Hyun-jin, a former MBC anchor who lost in one of 12 National Assembly by-elections on June 13, is one of the preparatory committee members.

“We should not blame or despise one another,” Kim said referring to the party’s in-fighting. “I will do my best without a personal agenda to support the successful launch of the emergency committee.”

Within hours, five veteran LKP lawmakers objected to Kim’s selection of committee members and issued a joint statement criticizing Kim’s move as “irresponsible” and an “abuse of power.”

They called on Kim to step down from his post and take responsibility for the party’s electoral loss.

On June 19, in an attempt to show the LKP’s commitment to reform, Kim made the symbolic move of declaring the abolishment of the party’s headquarters and diverting power to an emergency committee.

A political party in Korea is composed of its headquarters in Seoul, which serves as a governing body, and other regional bodies. The headquarters, with extensive oversight and management authority, is in charge of setting up the nomination process for general elections and executing administrative affairs of the party at large.

But with internal opposition brewing, it remains to be seen whether Kim will be able to see his reforms realized.

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