Tension between two conservative parties here is mounting as their presidential candidates struggle to gain ground on the progressives.
The combined support rating of the Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo and Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party stands at 10.4 percent, while Moon Jae-in, the leading progressive candidate, commands 34.9 percent.
Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo (L) and Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party (Yonhap)
Faced with overwhelming odds, Hong has called for the Bareun Party to “come home” before candidate registrations in mid-April.
The Bareun Party splintered off from the then Saenuri Party -- now called the Liberty Korea Party -- in the aftermath of the scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye.
Hong told reporters Monday that he has officially suggested to acting Bareun Party leader Rep. Joo Ho-young that the two parties merge before presidential candidate registrations.
Saying that the two parties’ members “are not children,” Hong said that the two sides should set aside their differences until after the May 9 election.
“(I) understand that (Bareun Party members) have that much political influence and tolerance,” Hong said.
“It is not an alliance, but for (the Bareun Party) to come in. It will all work out before the registrations.”
For his part, Yoo appears adamant at completing the race, attacking Hong as an “unqualified candidate.”
“(Hong) will lose the presidency if he is found guilty,” Yoo said in a radio interview, referring to Hong’s ongoing court case.
Hong is alleged to have received illegal funding from the late Sung Wan-jong, a businessman who was alleged to have been at the center of a massive illegal political funding scandal. Hong was acquitted by an appeals court. The prosecution has since taken the case to the Supreme Court.
“The prerequisite for selecting a unified candidate is that either one is a good choice. Hong is an unqualified candidate who fails to meet that prerequisite.”
Hong’s suggestion of uniting the parties has also been soundly rejected.
“Everyone knows that the home Hong is referring to is a house that will soon fall down,” Rep. Ji Sang-wuk, chief spokesperson for Yoo’s campaign, said.
“The Bareun Party will become the main current of conservativism. A main current does not flow backward.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)