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Opposition leader continues hunger strike for 7th day amid calls for removal of tent

The main opposition party on Tuesday strongly protested the presidential office’s request for the removal of the tent where its leader has held a hunger strike for the past seven days in protest of key reform bills. 

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Liberty Korea Party Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn began his hungry strike Nov. 20 in a tent set up in front of the presidential office to protest against bills on reforming the election system and setting up an independent body tasked with investigating corruption allegations involving high-ranking officials.

Kim Kwang-jin, presidential secretary for political affairs, sent a text message to Rep. Kim Do-eup of the Liberty Korea Party, chief of staff for the party chief, asking the party to voluntarily take down the tent.

Officials from Korea Tourism Organization, which is in charge of operating the square near the presidential office, on Monday asked for the removal of the tent in accordance with the rules on managing state property and warned of the forcible execution of administrative action.

The Liberty Korea Party responded by questioning whether President Moon Jae-in had ordered the tent to be taken down. The presidential office on Tuesday denied this, dismissing it as “illogical.”

Hwang’s health appears to have deteriorated, as he has not taken any food in the cold weather, according to party officials.

High-ranking officials from the Liberty Korea Party -- including Rep. Na Kyung-won, floor leader of the Liberty Party Korea -- as well as Rep. Yoo Seung-min of Bareunmirae Party visited Hwang at the hunger strike site on Tuesday.

“The final responsibility to stop the fast-track violence lies with President Moon,” said Na near the tent site, saying the fast-tracked bills were placed “illegally.” “Please withdraw your order for the ruling party to push for passage of the bills.”

Ruling Democratic Party leader Lee Hae-chan visited Hwang a day earlier to ask him to stop the hunger strike.

The main opposition party demands the revocation of the bills aimed at forming a special unit to probe corruption allegations involving high-ranking government officials and expanding proportional representation slots as part of electoral reform.

The Democratic Party and three minor parties reached a deal on the details of the key political and judiciary bills in April and put them on the fast track, despite objections from the main opposition party, which paralyzed parliamentary operations for months.

The election reform bill is expected to be referred to a parliamentary plenary session scheduled for Wednesday.

By Ock Hyun-ju (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)
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