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Bareun Party elects first leader

The new conservative Bareun Party elected its first leader Monday, a day before its official launch since spinning off from the ruling Saenuri Party.

Fifth-term lawmaker Rep. Choung Byoung-gug was elected in an unanimous vote and is to officially assume his post at the party’s first convention Tuesday. The party also formed a seven-member Supreme Council, including former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon. 

“Ever since he joined the political circle, Choung has continuously made efforts for reform, never settling to the given reality,” said the party’s spokesperson Rep. Chang Je-won, citing Choung’s devotion to launching the new party.

Choung was one of the first to defect from President Park Geun-hye’s governing Saenuri Party after she was impeached by the National Assembly on Dec. 9. Most Bareun lawmakers, including Chung, were said to vote in favor of impeaching Park in a secret vote.

Rep. Choung Byoung-gug (Yonhap)
Rep. Choung Byoung-gug (Yonhap)
Meanwhile, third-term lawmaker Rep. Park Soon-ja defected from the Saenuri Party and joined the Bareun Party earlier in the day, increasing the number of Bareun lawmakers at the National Assembly to 31. The number of seats held by Saenuri at the National Assembly was reduced to 96. 

“Even though I had tried really hard to re-establish conservative values inside the Saenuri Party, it was too difficult to fix the damage by myself,” she said in a statement. “The Saenuri Party is too corrupt to uphold the people’s will” 

More Saenuri lawmakers are said to be mulling a change of party affiliation. 

Among them are Rep. Park Duk-hyum, who said Sunday he would quit the party to help support the presidential bid of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Ban has not yet chosen which party he will join for his potential presidential run. He also has not explicitly said whether he plans to run for presidency.

The move came amid an internal feud between the president’s loyalists and dissenters over how to overhaul the conservative group following the parliamentary impeachment of the president. Park Geun-hye will be removed from power if the Constitutional Court upholds the lawmakers’ decision.   

Saenuri Party interim leader In Myung-jin suspended the membership of three of Park’s key loyalists for up to three years. But the party leader decided to keep the president as a party member, prompting pushback from anti-Park lawmakers and the Bareun Party. 

“Any overhaul of the Saenuri Party that does not remove President Park is meaningless,” said Bareun Party leader Choung on Monday. “It is pathetic to see the Saenuri Party clinging to the president. They have to let go of the president and disband the party.”

The newly elected leader said the party is ready to accept Ban, urging him to join the party this week.

If Ban does decide to join the Bareun Party, observers noted, more Saenuri lawmakers would likely defect, particularly those elected in South Chungcheong Province, the home base of Ban.

By Yeo Jun-suk (