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Moon shoots down demands to step down

Main opposition party leader Rep. Moon Jae-in Tuesday rejected demands by dissenting party members that he step down in an escalating power game between the current leadership and the sidelined faction ahead of next year’s parliamentary race.

The chairman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy refused to accept a proposal from former cochairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo and other nonmainstream lawmakers to hold a national caucus early next year and elect new leadership before the 2016 general elections.

“I can’t accept it under any circumstances,” Moon said at a press forum, saying the caucus would only deepen the party division before the elections. 

Moon Jae-in
Moon Jae-in

The aggravating in-house power struggle is expected to further hurt the chances of the NPAD against its strong rival Saenuri Party, which already enjoys 42.9 percent approval in ratings against its own 26.9 percent in the latest poll by Realmeter.

Claiming the dissenters’ demand was due to “their fear of being dropped from the (parliamentary race) nomination by being grouped in the bottom 20 percent regarding performance,” Moon warned against their threats to bolt if he did not accept their proposal.

“I do not think it is right for those suggesting defection for the sake of the people. I look at it as their way to simply put pressure on me,” Moon said.

There has been hubbub over a potential division of the NPAD following a series of defections by party heavyweights such as Rep. Chun Jung-bae, resignations from key posts by senior lawmakers and suggestions of some of the dissenting lawmakers that they too are considering leaving the party.

The latest was Rep. Joo Seung-yong, who announced Tuesday that he would resign as a member of the Supreme Council, denouncing Moon for failing to unite the party that has been suffering from severe infighting. The dissenters claim the election nominations could be tilted in favor of Moon associates.

Ahn, who had reiterated his demand for Moon to step down Sunday, stayed out of the public eye for the past two days, with party insiders suggesting he is mulling bolting from the party if Moon resists.

Moon, mindful of the scenario, said, “Ahn is a cofounder of the NPAD. I don’t think he would leave just because I refuse to step down.”

“I am not saying that they should leave if they want to, but pleading that (they) shouldn’t.”

Reiterating his determination to lead the NPAD’s efforts to win the 2016 general elections and 2017 presidential election, Moon floated the idea of bringing United Nation’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon into the party after his term ends.

“Ban virtually comes from the NPAD. We have made him the U.N. secretary-general,” said Moon, referring to the fact that Ban served as South Korea’s foreign minister from 2004 to 2006 during the late Roh Moo-hyun’s administration where Moon worked as presidential chief of staff.

According to a Nov. 30 survey by local pollster Realmeter, Ban ranked as the most favorable candidate for the presidential election. His approval rating was 23.6 percent, followed by Moon’s 22 percent and Saenuri Party chairman Kim Moo-sung’s 21.1 percent.

By Yeo Jun-suk (