Rep. Kim Dong-cheol announced Sunday he was leaving the New Politics Alliance for Democracy, bringing the number of defectors from the embattled opposition party to four in just a week.
“The only way to accomplish new politics and administrative change at this point is through the new party to be created by Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo,” Kim, whose defection was widely predicted, said at a press conference.
Rep. Kim Dong-cheol Yonhap
Kim’s defection marked the first time for a lawmaker representing the opposition’s political stronghold of Gwangju to bolt. He said he believed many more would follow suit.
Last week, Reps. Moon Byung-ho, Yoo Sung-yop and Hwang Ju-hong defected from the NPAD to join Ahn, an entrepreneur-turned-politician who recently left the party over a power struggle with current leader Rep. Moon Jae-in.
With Kim’s defection, only five out of eight lawmakers representing the NPAD’s political bastion of Gwangju remain within the party. Former NPAD members Reps. Chun Jung-bae and Park Joo-sun, both representing different districts of Gwangju, had left the party earlier in the year and are each planning to launch their own party.
Of the remaining five, only Rep. Kang Ki-jung is considered a part of the Moon faction, which observers point to as a sign that more of them could decide to leave as they had been demanding Moon step down for a fresh leadership ahead of next year’s general election.
“Many of the lawmakers representing (the Gwangju constituencies) are expected to make the decision (to leave),” Kim said without naming names.
The internal dispute at the NPAD has been spilling over to reshape the bipartisan political landscape paralleled by the ruling Saenuri Party in recent weeks, culminating in the defection of Ahn on Dec. 13.
While it had only been less than two years since Ahn joined forces with the main opposition bloc, he had recently been spearheading Moon’s internal critics that include the former Democratic Party’s old guards.
With less than four months remaining to the April 13 parliamentary elections, the series of defections are feared to disperse the already weakened progressive support base against the solid conservatives.
Law professor Cho Kuk of Seoul National University, who had served in the NPAD’s reform committee, said via his Facebook page on Saturday that all the dissenting forces should work on paving their own ways but should gather forces ahead of the elections.
“(The opposition) should go their own way for the time being. … But it is hoped that they come to their cool-headed and rational senses ahead of April. I hope that they will align in the name of chaebol reform, economic democratization and citizens’ welfare,” he said as he touched on the sense of emergency felt among liberals.
Moon, meanwhile, urged for those being left behind to remain undeterred.
“Some of our family members have left our home (NPAD) saying they no longer like the way we are. But it is all the more reason for those remaining to gather forces and rebuild the house so that those who left will return,” Moon said while attending a welfare seminar at the National Assembly on Sunday.
Seoul City Mayor Park Won-soon, who also attended the event, emphasized consistent efforts to prevent further split.
“I am extremely concerned about the party. … Division leads to absolute defeat,” he said. “I think we should conjure up all means possible by trying to embrace conservative-centrist forces to win the parliamentary elections.”
Rep. Ahn, in the meantime, is planning to hold a press conference Monday and reveal the blueprint for creating his new party, his sources said. (email@example.com