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Moon to quit ‘soon’ 

Main opposition party leader Rep. Moon Jae-in said Tuesday that he would promptly step down as chairman before the April general elections, pledging to hand over power to the committee dealing with the election campaign.

While reiterating that he would forgo his bid for the upcoming elections, the chairman of the Minjoo Party of Korea urged scattered opposition groups to merge into one liberal party, highlighting that a coalition could prevent the ruling Saenuri Party from seizing the legislative majority in the next elections.

“Despite all the efforts to undermine my leadership, I have stuck to my principles and managed to achieve party reform. What I haven’t achieved is party unity. I believe that my resignation is necessary to pave the way for unity,” Moon said in a press conference at the National Assembly.

Moon noted that he would leave his post “as soon as possible,” as the election committee gets ready to take over the leadership. Party spokesman Rep. Do Jong-hwan said Moon would resign no later than Feb. 8.

Moon said he would soon work with senior members to select a new leadership. It was widely expected that the incumbent leadership would announce its resignation this week and transfer power to election committee head Kim Jong-in.

The party’s dissenters have demanded Moon’s resignation amid staggering party popularity and worsening factional feuds in the wake of its crushing defeat in the 2014 by-elections.

Since assuming the chairmanship last February, Moon saw a total of 19 lawmakers leave the party in protest. One of the latest was Rep. Cho Kyung-tae, who announced his defection just hours after the press conference. Cho was said to be considering joining the ruling Saenuri Party.

Moon’s resignation was nonetheless expected to discourage further defections. Except for Rep. Park Jie-won, who is expected to leave this week, other dissenters such as Rep. Lee Yoon-suk have begun reconsidering their decision to quit, according to sources with knowledge on the matter.
Minjoo Party of Korea chairman Rep. Moon Jae-in announces his resignation during his New Year statement at the National Assembly, Tuesday. Yonhap
Minjoo Party of Korea chairman Rep. Moon Jae-in announces his resignation during his New Year statement at the National Assembly, Tuesday. Yonhap

Highlighting the party’s unity, Moon suggested a coalition plan with minority opposition parties such as Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo’s People’s Party, Rep. Chun Jung-bae’s People’s Reform Party and the minor opposition Justice Party. The merging with the latter two, Moon said, has been under discussion.

“Opposition groups must join forces and stay united (before the elections). Time is running out. I urge Chun’s party and the Justice Party to take the merging plan to the next level and discuss it at a public forum,” Moon said.

Ahn’s party has remained against joining hands with Moon, while Chun’s party has reserved judgement. The Justice Party, on the other hand, hinted at the possibility of working with the Minjoo Party on the campaign trail.

Meanwhile, Moon denounced President Park Geun-hye for mismanaging challenges on economic and security fronts. He said that Park should take the responsibility for worsening the nation’s fledging economy, failing to monitor North Korea’s nuclear tests and reaching a controversial agreement over comfort women.

He also blasted Park for violating the rule of separation of powers by attempting to bypass the legislative procedure for the passage of pending labor reform bills. On Monday, Park urged the public to take part in a petition to mount pressure on the lawmakers to do their jobs.

“The nation’s economy and the people’s livelihood are at their worst. Our democracy is now at stake and there is no end in sight for the two Koreas’ (strained) relations. But the president still blames the Assembly without reflecting on her own failure,” Moon said.

By Yeo Jun-suk (