[Newsmaker] NPAD defector pushes new opposition bloc

2015-04-30 19:33

The election win of Chun Jung-bae in Gwangju indicated that South Korea’s biggest opposition party is losing support in its main stronghold, and heralded the rise of a new political faction in the already-troubled liberal camp.

Chun, formerly of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, won a landslide victory over NPAD candidate Cho Young-taek in Wednesday’s by-election. The following morning, he vowed to rally politicians in Gwangju and Jeolla Province that can rival the NPAD in next year’s general election.

He said he would form an alliance of “new DJs” ― a reference to former President Kim Dae-jung. He said they would be young, strong political rookies worthy of taking over where the late Kim left off. 

Former Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae signs his name in the visitors’ book at the May 18 National Cemetery in Gwangju on Thursday. (Yonhap)

“What is certain is that I want to gather talented individuals to provide a clear vision and fair competition with the NPAD,” Chun said in a radio interview, adding that he was still uncertain if he wanted to found a new political party.

“A reform of the NPAD is possible via such competition, which will eventually lead to a stronger and bigger opposition as a whole.

Chun ruled out the possibility of him joining the NPAD’s former senior adviser Chung Dong-young ― who lost in the by-election in Seoul’s Gwanak constituency ― in his bid to make a new progressive party.

Bae Jong-chan, senior analyst of Research and Research, said that pro-Kim faction ― or “Dongkyodong faction” ― within the NPAD may gain strength in light of Chun’s win. Right now, the dominant faction is made of politicians favorable toward former President Roh Moo-hyun, led by NPAD leader and Roh’s former chief of staff Moon Jae-in.

“As factional discord remains among the party members, reconciliation of the two factions is important. For this, the role of Rep. Kwon Roh-kap ― an NPAD senior adviser and one of the key members of the pro-Kim faction ― may become more prominent,” he said.

For the NPAD, the Gwangju election defeat was particularly bitter in two ways: It came in the hands of a former ally, and was in an area they once deemed their own. Gwangju ― the epicenter of the 1980 pro-democracy movement ― has historically been a left-wing stronghold, and gave 92 percent of the vote to NPAD chief Moon in 2012 when he ran for the presidency.

Three years on, the city turned a cold shoulder to him, as criticisms about his leadership rose from inside and outside the party. Adding insult to injury, the NPAD lost three other districts contested Wednesday to the ruling Saenuri Party.

“(The NPAD leadership) will be demanded to take responsibility for the Gwangju election (loss). There will be calls for policy revision, along with requests to deal with the factional division,” Bae said.

Chun attributed his victory to voters’ discontent on the NPAD and the pro-Roh faction, and said their defeat was likely to serve as a “lash” on the main opposition party calling for change.

He hinted at a coalition with the NPAD prior to the next presidential election in 2017, saying that the opposition would have “no chance of winning” while divided. But he added that this did not necessarily mean he would return to the NPAD.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)