On Tuesday, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo and his supporters officially launched the People’s Party, a breakaway group from The Minjoo Party of Korea, the main opposition party.
The party put forward many nice words -- like political reform, politics for the people and a healthy and strong third party. But one undeniable fact is that the party is the consequence of a severe factional strife between two rival factions in the predecessor of the Minjoo Party -- one which was close to the late President Roh Moo-hyun and the other called “non-Rohs.”
When it comes to factional strife, the ruling Saenuri Party is not free from problems either. Unlike the opposition camp, a breakup of the party is out of the question, but the internal feud is escalating day by day as the April 13 election comes closer.
A faction loyal to President Park Geun-hye has added fresh fuel to the long-standing strife.
Former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, a confidant of Park, is taking the lead in pulling together the faction and making offensive moves against rivals. He is focusing his campaign on the southeastern provinces, the support base of Park and the ruling party.
Park and her associates are seeking to replace some lawmakers from the region, who, as Choi claimed, did little or nothing to support the Park administration. The prime target is Rep. Yoo Seong-min, who angered Park over legislative affairs while he was the floor leader for the ruling party. Choi accused Yoo of “grabbing the leg of the president” by criticizing her policy of increasing welfare without raising taxes.
Choi is apparently rallying the pro-Park faction as some constituents revolt against its move to replace incumbent lawmakers -- like Yoo -- with those who were key members of the Park administration until recently.
Choi’s move provoked the rival faction led by party leader Kim Moo-sung. On Sunday, Kim had dinner with a group of about 50 lawmakers in an apparent show of unity against the pro-Park faction.
Kim was quoted as saying that he hoped all the participants in the dinner would “come back alive” from the election battle. In other words, he was acting as if he were the commander in chief of the faction.
This is wrong for a man whose job is to lead the party to a victory over the opposition parties in the election. Moreover, his support of the incumbent lawmakers belonging to the non-Park faction goes against his call for the “bottom-up” nomination of candidates.
Kim, a potential presidential candidate, is pushing the nomination reform to keep Park and her associates from exerting influence in nominations. It is self-contradictory if he supports a certain group of lawmakers, as the party is bracing for a nomination war. As the party leader, he should stand neutral.