Marking 100 days since he assumed the party leadership, main opposition Liberty Korea Party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn on Thursday vowed to reform the party.
LKP leader Hwang Kyo-ahn (Yonhap)
The previous day, Hwang warned against controversial remarks by party lawmakers and attended a meeting with a group of people in their 20s to 40s, in an apparent bid to expand the conservative party’s support base ahead of next year’s general election.
“If we don’t reform and innovate the party ourselves, we cannot become the leading force of history,” he said on Facebook, adding that innovation would bring the party closer to the people.
“The LKP has been at the center of responsibly leading Korea’s history,” he said, adding that the spirit of the party lay in sacrifice for the protection of liberal democracy and a market economy.
His remarks come as the LKP has seen a decline in its approval rating for the fourth consecutive week amid recent controversial remarks by its lawmakers on politically divisive issues -- most notably, the 2014 ferry disaster and the 1980 pro-democracy movement in Gwangju.
“We cannot win the general election next April with the approval rating of around 30 percent from our ‘concrete support base,’” Hwang said at Wednesday night’s event at the National Assembly. “To win (the election), we need to reach out to moderate voters.”
At the meeting, Hwang, a former prosecutor and a former prime minister under the Park Geun-hye administration, offered his views on unifying the conservative bloc and on policies of special concern to women and younger people. He also shared some personal stories -- for example, about his wife and his music hobby.
The party believes it needs more support from women and younger people ahead of the April 2020 election.
Hwang also issued a warning to the lawmakers who had made remarks that some saw as disparaging to the bereaved families of the deadly maritime disaster and the Gwangju Uprising on May 18, 1980.
“Let me be clear. Those who make remarks that hurt the Korean people and undermine public trust will be strictly held accountable,” Hwang said during a party meeting on Wednesday.
In a survey of 1,506 voters conducted by Realmeter, the approval rating for the Liberty Korea Party came to 29.4 percent, down 0.6 percentage point from last week. The approval rating for the ruling Democratic Party also slipped 0.6 percentage point to 40.4 percent.
The protracted wrangling in the National Assembly is also a factor behind diminishing support for the LKP, the local pollster said.
The National Assembly has been paralyzed as the main opposition boycotted parliamentary operations in protest against the ruling party and other minor parties, which placed a set of controversial bills -- including an election reform bill and a plan to redistribute investigative powers between the prosecution and police -- on the fast track.