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Opposition leader conscious again after hospitalization over hunger strike

The chief of South Korea's main opposition party regained consciousness Thursday after he was taken to a hospital a day earlier following eight days of hunger strike, officials said.

Liberty Korea Party chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn lost consciousness on Wednesday night while fasting in protest of controversial bills on election reform and a corruption probe unit.

He was immediately sent to Severance Hospital in west Seoul, according to party officials.

"His vital signs such as breathing and pulse have stabilized.

Liberty Korea Party chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn (Yonhap)
Liberty Korea Party chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn (Yonhap)

He appears to have passed the worst, but it is not a situation in which we can relax," Rep. Kim Myung-yeon told reporters.

Hwang began his fast on Nov. 20, demanding that President Moon Jae-in revoke his decision not to renew Seoul's military intelligence-sharing deal with Japan and that key reform bills, now on a parliamentary fast track, be withdrawn.

Hwang's health has deteriorated as he has not taken food while protesting in an outdoor tent in the cold.

The government on Friday "conditionally" suspended the termination of the pact with Japan.

But Hwang continued to fast, demanding the cancellation of an election reform bill and a proposal to set up a new agency to investigate corruption involving high-ranking officials.

The ruling Democratic Party and three minor parties designated those bills as fast-track legislation in late April despite objections from the LKP.

The bill to adopt a new proportional representation system was automatically referred to a plenary session Wednesday.

LKP lawmakers may seek to play hardball in a bid to deter the parliamentary passage of the bills.

Two senior members of the LKP's leadership council announced their own plan to fast in support of Hwang's hunger strike.

The DP hopes to wrap up the passage of the bills by Dec. 10, when the ongoing parliamentary regular session ends. But the party also feels burdened in revamping an election system without the consent of the largest opposition party.

"The National Assembly should do what it can do when Hwang recovers. We call on the LKP to actively engage in dialogue and negotiations," Rep. Lee In-young, floor leader of the DP, told a party meeting. (Yonhap)