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LKP struggles to find anyone to lead it forward

July 05,2018
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is struggling to find someone to lead an emergency committee to recover from its worst ever electoral loss last month.

But with questions growing over the direction of the party and lingering internal disputes, many who have been contacted for the position have declined the offer.

One stinging rejection came from Lee Hoi-chang, a former judge who ran unsuccessfully for president three times: in 1997, 2002 and 2007. Though Lee failed in all his presidential bids and retired from politics after his defeat in 2007, he still commands respect from many conservatives in the country.

But Lee’s associates notified the LKP that the veteran politician had no intention of accepting the job, Ahn Sang-soo, a three-term lawmaker in charge of launching the emergency committee, said in a radio interview with MBC Wednesday.

“I think it would be disrespectful for Lee if we maintained our offer to him,” said the committee chief.

Discussions among LKP members about staffing the emergency committee are continuing but no agreement has been reached on who is most suitable to lead the troubled party, which lost all but two of 17 key races in the June 13 local elections. For the 12 by-elections on June 13, the LKP lost all but one in its worst electoral performance in the party’s history.

Kim Byong-joon, an honorary professor at Kookmin University who taught public administration, is the only public figure to publicly say he is open to taking the helm of the party, which has 114 lawmakers in the 300-member National Assembly.

Kim was nominated by former President Park Geun-hye to become prime minister in November 2016 when a corruption scandal involving Park and her confidant Choi Soon-sil unraveled. Opposition parties at the time refused the nomination and Kim could not even attend a parliamentary hearing.

There have been suggestions by party members that former Constitutional Court Justice Lee Jung-mi, who read the court’s landmark ruling on March 10 last year that removed Park from office, could be tapped for the role. But the former judge made it clear she would not take the job even if formally offered.

The LKP has 40 candidates on a list that includes figures outside the political establishment. The preparation committee said it will narrow down the list to five or six over the weekend.

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