Rul­ing party split over im­peached Park

UN chief Ban Ki-moon re­claims top spot in lat­est pres­i­den­tial polls

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in Seoul

A South Korean rul­ing party fac­tion said on Tues­day it would form a new party, and key mem­bers said they hoped out­go­ing UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon would join it to launch a widely ex­pected bid to be­come pres­i­dent.

If Ban joined the new party, it would give him a con­ser­va­tive plat­form while dis­tanc­ing him­self from the rul­ing Saenuri Party of Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye, which has be­come tainted by a cor­rup­tion scan­dal that led to a par­lia­men­tary im­peach­ment vote against her this month.

The 29 law­mak­ers de­fect­ing from the Saenuri Party were among those who sup­ported the par­lia­men­tary mo­tion to im­peach her over the scan­dal, which was passed over­whelm­ingly on Dec 9.

Some an­a­lysts ex­pect the new party to be­come the coun­try’s main con­ser­va­tive force and fur­ther de­fec­tions to it from Park’s party were likely, es­pe­cially if Ban joined.

“We are hop­ing Sec­re­taryGen­eral Ban Ki-moon will join the New Con­ser­va­tive Party for Re­form, and if he joins, it will be right that he would com­pete in a fair pri­mary,” said Yoo Seong-min, a mem­ber of the new party, us­ing the new party’s ten­ta­tive name.

In a Real­me­ter poll re­leased on Mon­day, Ban re­claimed the top spot with 23.3 per­cent of re­spon­dents sup­port­ing him, just ahead of the lib­eral Demo­cratic Party’s Moon Jae-in, at 23.1 per­cent.

The de­fec­tions cut the num­ber of seats held by Saenuri to fewer than 100 in the 300-mem­ber cham­ber. The Saenuri un­ex­pect­edly lost its ma­jor­ity in April par­lia­men­tary elec­tions.

Ban, 72, has not de­clared an in­ten­tion to run for pres­i­dent, only say­ing he would de­vote him­self to the coun­try af­ter his ten­ure ends this month.

Nev­er­the­less, he had un­til re­cently been widely ex­pected to run for the top job as a mem­ber of Park’s party.

But run­ning as a Saenuri can­di­date looks far less at­trac­tive given the cor­rup­tion scan­dal grip­ping the coun­try, in which a friend of Park’s is ac­cused of col­lud­ing with the pres­i­dent to pres­sure big busi­nesses into pay­ing money to foun­da­tions back­ing Park’s ini­tia­tives.

Kim Jun-seok, a Dong­guk Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor, said Ban sup­port­ers in the Saenuri Party, in­clud­ing law­mak­ers from his home re­gion of Chungcheong, were wait­ing to see what he would do.

Ev­ery­one re­main­ing in the party is cal­cu­lat­ing what their next move should be.” Kim Jun-seok, Dong­guk Univer­sity po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor

Join­ing forces?

Ban could opt to form his own group, with the in­ten­tion of later join­ing forces with the new con­ser­va­tive party, sav­ing him from hav­ing to run in the new party’s pri­mary con­test, Kim said, an ar­range­ment which is not un­usual in Korean pol­i­tics.

“Ev­ery­one re­main­ing in the party is cal­cu­lat­ing what their next move should be,” Kim said.

“Saenuri has lost its iden­tity and the new party will take the lead among con­ser­va­tives.”

The Con­sti­tu­tional Court has up to 180 days to up­hold or over­turn the im­peach­ment vote against Park, who has been stripped of her pow­ers in the mean­time.

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