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NPAD to launch party reform panel

Opposition officials trade barbs on social media

Korea’s main opposition party on Sunday decided to launch an “innovation” panel, perhaps as early as this week, to salvage the fragmented party from factional strife and regroup ahead of next April’s general election.

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy made the decision at its closed-door Supreme Council session as senior lawmakers traded barbs both online and offline over the weekend.

NPAD chair Rep. Moon Jae-in seeks to devise “innovation plans” through panel discussions sometime next month, party officials said. 

Rep. Moon Jae-in (right), the leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, shakes hands with his fellow party member Rep. Chung Sye-kyun at a wedding ceremony for Chung’s son in the National Assembly complex on Sunday. (Yeo Jun-suk/The Korea Herald.)
Rep. Moon Jae-in (right), the leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy, shakes hands with his fellow party member Rep. Chung Sye-kyun at a wedding ceremony for Chung’s son in the National Assembly complex on Sunday. (Yeo Jun-suk/The Korea Herald.)

At the panel, party officials will discuss the conflict-laden party’s personnel overhaul, ways to ensure transparency and fairness in the candidate nominations for the general election and other reforms.

The officials have not yet decided whether an outsider will lead the panel and how to fairly reflect the voices of all competing party factions in the reform process, NPAD officials explained.

“The basic aim of the (innovation committee) will be to defuse tensions among the party’s factions,” NPAD spokesman Kim Sung-soo told reporters.

“We agreed that the party must finish forming this panel as soon as possible.”

The latest reform efforts came amid a worsening factional crisis in the NPAD.

Moon has failed to tackle feuds between the party’s leading faction, the “pro-Rohs,” political proteges of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, and another crucial group ― the “non-Rohs.” The latter group holds the pro-Rohs liable for recent election losses and dwindling public support.

Moon, who served as Roh’s presidential chief of staff, is widely seen as the leader of the pro-Roh faction. He was elected to the party’s top post in February, defeating non-Roh rivals Reps. Park Jie-won and Lee In-young.

The non-Rohs want Moon to resign to “take responsibility” for the party’s defeats in the April 29 parliamentary by-elections. Moon has refused, accusing the non-Rohs of initiating a power struggle within the party.

The ruling Saenuri Party won three of the four contested regions, including a constituency in Seoul long considered a safe liberal seat. The NPAD won none, even losing to independent candidate Chun Jung-bae in Gwangju, another voting district the party was expected to win.

The Saenuri Party’s wins also came in spite of ongoing prosecutorial probes on leading ruling bloc officials accused of graft. The corruption charges were expected to sway public opinion against the NPAD. But the comprehensive defeats sparked blame-trading between the non-Rohs and pro-Rohs.

The factions continued their feud online over the weekend.

“Even baseball managers take responsibility for defeats,” Park wrote on his Facebook account on Saturday, criticizing Moon’s objection to calls to surrender his chairmanship.

“We are getting further and further away from winning the next presidential race,” Park added. “Losing (in elections) leads to division (among the party’s factions), which in turn leads to more losses.”

Pro-Roh Rep. Kim Kyung-hyub tweeted his objections to the accusations calling them of being “hegemonic” on Friday.

“Hegemony means violently, unilaterally, taking someone else’s things. I find the (non-Rohs’) accusations groundless.”

Moon left for the southwestern city of Gwangju later Sunday to prepare for ceremonies commemorating the 35th anniversary of the May-18 Gwangju protests. Citizens there in 1980 clashed with paratroopers backing ex-President Chun Doo-hwan, leaving hundreds dead.

Before leaving Seoul, Moon also reportedly reviewed plans proposing to devolve the party leadership’s authority to senior party officials of opposing factions. He also repeated plans to privately visit senior non-Roh lawmakers demanding his resignation.

By Jeong Hunny and Yeo Jun-suk
(hj257@heraldcorp.com) (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)
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