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Dispute over right-wing lawyer stirs up trouble for Liberty Korea Party

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party continues to struggle to maintain its foothold as the country’s major conservative party, following a dispute over personnel reform.

The interim chief of the conservative party, Kim Byong-joon, apologized Monday for friction caused by a former member of its reform committee who was recently dismissed.

Interim chief of Liberty Korea Party, Kim Byong-joon (center), speaks at a party meeting at the party's headquarter in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
Interim chief of Liberty Korea Party, Kim Byong-joon (center), speaks at a party meeting at the party's headquarter in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

“I apologize for raising concerns over the organization reinforcement committee. The path we are on is not always sunny. We have to overcome windy rain and storms to see the grain ripen,” Kim said Monday at a party meeting.

Jun Won-tchack, a right-wing lawyer and political pundit who was appointed as a member of the party’s organization reinforcement committee in charge of managing personnel appointments, was fired Friday as tension mounted between Jun and the party’s interim leadership over when to hold a national convention to elect new party leadership.

Kim has been pushing for the convention to be held in February, but Jun had argued more time was needed for a complete shake-up of personnel and pushed for July at the earliest.

Amid the escalating dispute, Jun revealed that Kim had secretly requested the appointment of two people to the committee.

On Friday, the party sent a mobile text message to Jun to inform him of his dismissal. In a statement, Kim explained the dismissal was inevitable, as they could not reconcile their differences.

“We tried our best to respect Jun’s opinion, but we could not accept his arguments, such as on when to hold the national convention, which is a decision that goes beyond the authority of the committee,” Kim said.

Jeon Won-chaek (Yonhap)
Jeon Won-chaek (Yonhap)
Jun lashed back, saying the party had treated him like a “subcontractor.”

“Holding a national convention at the end of February just means they do not want a shake-up,” Jun told reporters in front of his house in Mapo, Seoul, after he was notified of his dismissal Friday.

“South Korea’s conservative voters do not know where to go. They have been looking forward to a new, reformed party.”

The lawyer said he would hold a press conference to reveal what has been going on inside the party on Wednesday afternoon.

In the meeting on Monday, Kim reiterated the reason for Jun’s dismissal.

“Deterioration of the party’s discipline should not happen in any case. Once relaxed, no reforms will be possible,” Kim said.

Regarding Jun’s claim that Kim had used his authority to pressure Jun into appointing two committee members, Kim denied any wrongdoing.

“I thought the committee was having difficulties in their work and recommended adding two other members who are close to Jun. They are complete strangers to me, and there is no reason for me to press Jun on it,” he added.

The Liberty Korea Party launched the organization reinforcement committee Oct. 11 as part of efforts to restore its status as the main conservative group, after former President Park Geun-hye was ousted over corruption. Seven members from within and outside the party, including Jun, were appointed to lead the committee.

Upon his appointment, the right-wing lawyer had expressed strong determination to carry out sweeping reforms of the party’s personnel, saying he would even go against the party’s veteran lawmakers if necessary.

“Due to the conflict between pro-Park and anti-Park factions, the people are saying Korea’s conservative party is dying out. The party is currently in an intensive care unit,” he said in a local radio interview.

The party said it would appoint a new member to fill Jun’s position and normalize its operations.

By Jo He-rim (