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[Newsmaker] Following the inter-Korean summit, South Korea’s main opposition party is in crisis

Senior legislator bolts from Liberty Korea Party in protest against leader Hong Joon-pyo

Following last month’s historic inter-Korean summit, South Korea’s main opposition Liberty Korea Party is embroiled in internal conflict, leading to one of its members quitting in protest against the conservative party’s controversial leader, Hong Joon-pyo.

Rep. Kang Kil-bu, who had been openly demanding that Hong step down, mainly over controversial remarks he made regarding the results of the inter-Korean summit, officially left the party on Sunday.

Kang said Thursday that if Hong did not resign by the end of the week, he would have to make a very “important decision.” He is the first lawmaker from the main opposition party who has openly demanded Hong to step down. 


“Leaving the party is a result of my own shortcomings. Please blame me,” he wrote in a Facebook post, in which he officially announced his departure from the party.

Kang’s exit from the party took place amid a number of events that have affected both its leaders and members. The support rating for the party has dropped significantly since the April 27 summit, from 21.7 percent on April 30 to 17.4 percent on Saturday.

A Realmeter poll also showed that many elderly supporters of the conservative party have turned their backs on it since the summit. The support rating for the party among Koreans in their 60s dropped by 6 percentage points in the same period, from 33.7 percent to 27.7 percent.

Meanwhile, the approval rating for President Moon Jae-in reached the highest last week since he took office last year, marking 83 percent.

Hong is at the center of controversies regarding the downfall of the Liberty Korea Party, which had won two presidential elections before Moon took office.

Hong faces backlash from both liberal politicians as well as members of his own party, for his use of aggressive and “distasteful” language against Moon and his North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un. Hong defined the inter-Korean summit as a “show of fake peace” and said that the world “is going crazy” after a survey revealed that some South Koreans think favorably of Kim. He has also said, “Kim Jong-un may be (South Korea’s) next President.”

Rep. Kang, along with other Liberty Korea Party members, including Rep Kim Tae-ho, say that Hong’s “lack of decency and manners” have failed to earn the trust of Koreans and that Hong “has gone too far” with the criticism of the historic summit.

Gyeonggi Provincial Gov. Nam Kyung-pil, a Liberty Korea Party member who is seeking a second term in office in the upcoming local elections slated for June 13, also told Hong that the party cannot gain a lot of support from citizens if his remarks do not reflect the general public sentiment. Incheon Mayor Yoo Joeng-bok, another Liberty Korea Party member who is seeking a second term, also said that Hong is “out of his mind” for his aggressive remarks against the summit.

Another Liberty Korea Party member Kim Moon-soo, who is running for Seoul mayor, has decided not to use the party’s campaign slogan for the upcoming local elections, which says “Are you going to hand over our entire country to North Korea?”

While the support rating for the party has been dropping, some members of the party have been on a hunger strike in public, including its floor leader Kim Sung-tae, calling for an independent counsel investigation into an online rigging scandal involving ruling party member Kim Kyung-soo, who is a close aide to President Moon.

The strike, however, has failed to attract public support. An anonymous person even delivered boxes of pizza to the hunger strike site Friday, as a way to mock the main opposition party’s lawmakers.

On Saturday, the party’s floor leader Kim Sung-tae was attacked by a man in his 30s. He continued his sit-in protest and hunger strike wearing a neck brace after receiving medical treatment.

Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hong Joon-pyo called the attack an “act of terrorism” against his party. A former prosecutor and governor of South Gyeongsang Province, Hong finished second among the five major candidates during last year’s presidential election, with 24 percent of votes.

By Claire Lee (