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Minority opposition party stumbles over unity discord

The newborn minority opposition People’s Party showed signs of division Friday as several senior members lashed back at chairman Ahn Cheol-soo’s flat refusal for a strategic merger with the main opposition camp.

It was mostly those who had defected from The Minjoo Party of Korea who called for unity with their former party ahead of the April 13 general elections.

“I hereby resign from my post as the party’s election planning committee chairman,” declared Rep. Kim Han-gil in a statement.

Opposition solidarity is crucial in order to deter the ruling camp from taking a decision-making majority, especially in the Seoul-Gyeonggi metropolitan area, according to the four-term lawmaker from Gwangjin-gu, northeastern Seoul.

(From left) Reps. Chun Jung-bae, Ahn Cheol-soo, and Kim Han-gil of the newborn minority opposition People's Party. Yonhap
(From left) Reps. Chun Jung-bae, Ahn Cheol-soo, and Kim Han-gil of the newborn minority opposition People's Party. Yonhap

The party’s cochairman Rep. Chun Jung-bae and floor leader Rep. Joo Seung-yong -- both defectors from the Minjoo side -- shared Kim’s view.

Chun had said the previous day that he may defect, should the opposition unity fall apart. Joo claimed that an obsession with party independence may lead to a defeat of the entire opposition bloc.

“(The voters of the opposition-leaning Gwangju and Jeolla regions) are supporting the People’s Party due to their disappointment in the main opposition,” Joo said Friday at the party’s Supreme Council meeting, which Kim and Chun boycotted.

But in areas outside of the “Honam” regions, it is inevitable to form solidarity with the Minjoo Party in order to secure as many opposition seats as possible, he said.

Despite such strong resistance from former Minjoo Party members, however, chairman Ahn did not back down on his “new politics” slogan.

“We started off to suggest a new alternative to social problems, which is why we cannot compromise with the ways of old politics,” Ahn said, vowing to safeguard his party’s independence in the bipartisan hegemony.

“Only when a valid third party makes its way into the National Assembly will there be mature legislative discussion, instead of bipartisan feuds.”

Though he did not directly refer to the unity issue or the absence of the two leaders, Ahn clearly reiterated his rejection to holding hands with the Minjoo Party.

“There will be no turning back (to the Minjoo Party),” he said earlier this week, in response to Minjoo chief Kim Chong-in’s pressure for unity.

“I realize that this could mean death for all, but so be it.”

Ahn’s party currently holds 17 seats in the parliament, three seats shorts of the 20-member mark required to obtain bargaining rights.

Rep. Park Joo-sun, another Minjoo Party defector, supported Ahn’s unbending stance.

“It is only right that we should look away from the Minjoo Party and focus on achieving a change of government,” he said.

By Bae Hyun-jung (