The main opposition The Minjoo Party of Korea announced Sunday it is uniting with the non-parliamentary Democratic Party to rise as an influential countervailing force against the current administration ahead of next year’s presidential election.
“Our integration is a declaration of hope and the launch of a grand march toward administrative change by overcoming the division and desperation felt by the people who are losing hope as they stand on the edge of life,” said Minjoo Party chief Rep. Choo Mi-ae.
Joining Choo was Kim Min-seok, a former lawmaker of the precursor to the Minjoo Party and leader of the Democratic Party launched in September 2014 by dissenters who opposed the formation of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy that had joined hands with former presidential candidate Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo and his followers.
The Minjoo Party of Korea’s Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae and the Democratic Party leader Kim Min-seok hug during the announcement of the two parties’ merger in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. (Yonhap)
The NPAD last year changed its name to the Minjoo Party after a fallout with Ahn’s group. Ahn went on to create the People’s Party. Kim’s Democratic Party is reported to have about 7,000 members with no parliamentary seat.
Choo and Kim were visiting the birthplace of independence fighter and politician Shin Ik-hee, the founder of the original Democratic Party 61 years ago. Both the Minjoo Party and the Democratic Party have claimed Shin’s foundation of the Democratic Party in 1955 against then-President Syungman Rhee’s Liberal Party as the starting point of their history.
“We will clarify the historical nature of the party as one Democratic Party and serve for the people’s hope,” Choo said.
The integration comes on the heels of the launch of the Minjoo Party’s new leadership and ahead of next year’s presidential election, during which a number of conservative and progressive figures are likely to vie against one another in a heated race for nomination.
“Former President Kim Dae-jung had said that the name the Democratic Party was the true symbol, matrix and identity of the opposition. … The reason why others and myself have stood by the party was to uphold such a historical route and identity,” Kim said.
The Minjoo Party is likely to maintain its official name but use the Democratic Party as its abbreviated brand.
“Minjoo” means democratic in Korean, but the party added “the” in its formal acronym so as not to be confused with Kim’s Democratic Party.
Choo said that the renewed forces will work to represent the “anger of the people” against the “incompetent government” that she described as having failed in dealing with a number of disasters and threats including last week’s strongest-ever earthquake reported in the country, last year’s Middle East respiratory syndrome outbreak and the Sewol ferry sinking that claimed 304 lives in 2014.
The formal integration of the two parties will proceed through meetings of the Supreme Council and the central committee, party sources said.