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Main opposition party to hold leadership election as scheduled

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party said Friday that it will hold its leadership election slated for late February as scheduled.

At an emergency meeting with party members, the conservative party decided to hold a national convention to pick its new leader and senior officials on Feb. 27.


The decision was made to guarantee fairness despite earlier concerns that the election could clash with a second summit between the United States and North Korea.

Several contenders had demanded that the election be postponed to March as it could be overshadowed by the second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to be held from Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam.

The leadership election is a crucial event for the survival of the LKP ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections.

Earlier, six of the eight contenders said that they will boycott the national convention if the party fails to postpone it and to accept their demands about changes to election rules.

Four minor contenders issued a statement saying that two big-name candidates -- Hong Joon-pyo, former leader of the LKP and former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon -- had agreed verbally to their request for a postponement.

But former prime minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, another high-profile contender, and Rep. Kim Jin-tae did not want the election to be delayed.

“The national convention should be postponed by at least two weeks,” the statement asserted.

Hwang is viewed by conservative voters as one of the most favorable candidates for the 2022 presidential election, recent polls showed.

Still, he faces stigma for being closely affiliated with former President Park Geun-hye, who was ousted in March 2017 due to a massive corruption scandal.

Hwang served as acting president when Park was suspended from office by parliamentary impeachment in late 2016. The LKP is still stung by the fallout from Park‘s ouster.

Former LKP chairman Hong claimed that Hwang’s return will aggravate an image of the party being tied to Park‘s impeachment.

Hong resigned in disgrace from the party chairmanship right after the party’s crushing defeat in local elections last June.

Oh, who announced his bid Thursday, stressed the need to overcome the Park-related stigma in order for the party to make a turnaround.

Once viewed as a moderate politician in the conservative bloc, Oh has largely stayed away from the political scene since he stepped down as Seoul mayor in 2011 over a row about free school lunches. (Yonhap)