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People Power Party
Liberty Korea Party
Saenuri Party
New Frontier Party
Grand National Party (GNP)

South Korea's main opposition party chosn a 36-year-old Harvard-educated computer expert with no experience as a lawmaker as its new leader. The People Power Party held a convention on 11 June 2021 to elect its head. Lee Jun-seok defeated four senior and established rivals in the party's leadership contest. In his acceptance speech, Lee said, "Our biggest task is to win the presidential election. I will work to make a party where various presidential candidates and their supporters can coexist." After studying at Harvard University, Lee was recruited in 2011 by Park Geun-hye, who later became the country's president, and joined a conservative party which later became the PPP. Over the years, he has steadily boosted his public profile, with high-profile calls for political reform. Lee cannot run for the election as he is below the minimum age of 40. The PPP has yet to find a strong candidate for next year's presidential race. Some party members hope that former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who stood against the Moon Jae-in administration, will enter the political arena and run in the election. The PPP aims to change its public image under Lee's leadership and garner more support from young voters ahead of the election. Members of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) approved forming a new right-wing party with the New Conservative Party led by Rep. Yoo Seong-min and another party led by Rep. Lee Un-ju. The party's national committee on 13 February 2020 declared its resolve to unite with the two parties, as well as conservative civic groups, saying the move is aimed at protecting the country's constitution, liberal democracy and market economy. LKP Chair Hwang Kyo-ahn said the merger allows both judgment to be passed on the Moon Jae-in administration and the protection of liberty in April's general elections. The involved parties, however, will still need to iron out differences on the new party's supreme council membership and formation of the candidate nomination committee. Korea's main opposition party used the podium to highlight the mishaps of the Moon Jae-in administration. In his policy speech 01 February 2018, Kim Sung-tae -- the floor leader of the Liberty Korea Party -- said the government's policies are causing concern among the public.

He pointed to the recent minimum wage hike that's led to the firing of workers as small businesses aren't able to shoulder the financial burden, regulations on cryptocurrency that are causing huge price fluctuations, and a string of measures aimed at cooling the real estate market that haven't been effective. Kim went on to say that two recent fires that claimed the lives of dozens of people also showed the incompetence of the government. "People have started to ask: Is this what the government calls building 'a nation that is truly a nation'? They have begun to shake their heads."

Kim said the government is more concerned about what he claims is "political revenge" by digging out the irregularities of the past conservative governments -- and putting important issues, such as people's safety, welfare, economy and foreign affairs at the back of its mind.

On North Korea, the floor leader said the nuclear problem shouldn't be overshadowed by the regime's Olympic participation -- adding that the government has let Pyongyang have its own way. He stressed the government needs to step away from its naive stance of pursuing dialogue. Kim put forward a suggestion -- a demand the conservative party has long been calling for.

"Redeployment of strategic assets is the most effective military option to counter North Korea's nuclear threats. We hope the government notes that this is the most effective response, and a card we can play against North Korea's nuclear threats for now."

As for Constitutional amendment, Kim said a revision must be made to reduce the president's authority -- as it's a road to pursuing a mature democracy and overcoming imperialism.

The ruling Saenuri Party’s interim leader In Myung-jin demanded 30 December 2016 that key members aligned with President Park Geun-hye leave the party by 06 January 2017. He called on pro-Park members to take responsibility for the political crisis facing the party amid the Choi Soon-sil scandal. The interim leader criticized them for being divisive, disappointing the people and failing to win the parliamentary majority in the 13 April 2016 election. He dodged a question about whether the personnel reform drive also means the departure of President Park, saying his principle is not to individually name those affected and the president is also not an exception. Park loyalists criticized what they called a move to shatter the party.

The ruling Saenuri Party elected a close aide to President Park Geun-hye as its new leader during a party convention in southern Seoul on 14 August 2016. With just days left to the Saenuri Party chief election, Rep. Choung Byoung-gug dropped out of the race, throwing his support to fellow lawmaker Joo Ho-young. The two lawmakers fielded a single candidate, agreeing to the result of the latest opinion poll. Joo said that he and Choung agreed to join hands in order to reconcile political factions and reform the party that suffered a crushing defeat in the general elections in April 2016. Saenuri Party Rep. Choung Byoung-gug withdrew his candidacy to support reform-minded lawmaker Joo Ho-young against others loyal to President Park Geun-hye. At the main opposition party, the former Incheon city mayor lost his candidacy in a preliminary vote ahead of the election.

The party announced 14 August 2016 that Lee Jung-hyun was elected as its new chairman with 44,421 votes, beating out Joo Ho-young who garnered 31,946. Lee Ju-young won 21-thousand-614 and Han Sun-kyo gained 10,757 votes. Lee’s appointment as top representative raised expectation that the Saenuri Party, deeply rooted in Gyeongsang Province, will be reborn as a truly national party free from regionalism. The 57-year-old was the first Saenuri representative elected from the Jeolla Provinces. Some political analysts expressed concern about the president’s right arm becoming the head of the ruling party, because it could erode the party’s independence from the government. As it stood, four of the new five members of Saenuri’s supreme council belonged to the pro-Park faction.

Some are concerned that Lee’s appointment will further alienate the Saenuri lawmakers who are not affiliated with the pro-Park faction and worsen internal feud within the ruling party. Meanwhile, political analysts said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will benefit from Lee’s chairmanship as it would raise his shot at becoming the party’s presidential candidate over former Saenuri chairman Kim Moo-sung, who is not part of the pro-Park faction.

The ruling Saenuri Party's chief Lee Jung-hyun said 13 November 2016 that the party will hold a national convention in January to pick its new leader and promised to step down once the administration stabilizes. "I will immediately resign once rival parties pick the new prime minister and when a bipartisan Cabinet is formed." However, the non-pro-Park faction rejected the chair's decision and called on the party leadership to immediately resign. They also issued a statement saying they would forge ahead to dissolve the party and recommended a public vote on whether President Park Geun-hye should stay in office. Saenuri's former chief and potential presidential candidate, Kim Moo-sung, went so far as to say that President Park should face impeachment.


South Korea's ruling conservatives scored an upset victory in the 2012 nationwide legislative election. Voters were able to make separate selections for individual candidates and parties for proportional representation seats. The New Frontier (Saenuri) Party, along with minor parties on the right, retained control of the National Assembly for the next four years. Economic issues, a spying scandal, and personalities outweighed national security concerns in South Korea's fiercely fought parliamentary election.

The election gave a boost to the New Frontier Party, hoping to retain the presidency. It changed its name from the Grand National Party in February 2012 in a bid to revitalize its image. This was the first time in two decades the legislative and presidential elections were held in the same year in a country known for its volatile political environment.

The party originated from the Democratic Liberal Party formed in 1990, a merger of the Democratic Justice Party (then President Roh Tae-woo's party), Reunification Democratic Party (Chaired at the time by former President Kim Young-sam), and the New Democratic Party (Chaired at the time by Kim Jong-pil (JP)). After JP left the party and Roh was imprisoned, the party was renamed the New Korea Party, and subsequently changed its name to GNP.

By 2008 the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) was facing a crisis in party cohesion. The GNP was in trouble. Not only did it have to deal with a cantankerous opponent in the shape of the DP and abysmally low approval ratings for President Lee, it was having trouble managing power struggles within the party. Though the party was unlikely to split, its ability to pass difficult legislation was much harder than its comfortable majority suggested.

Once merely split by two powerful factions -- one led by President Lee Myung-bak (MB) and the other by long-time party leader Park Geun-hye -- the GNP was increasingly plagued by divisions within the pro-MB faction, and events in the National Assembly raised serious concerns about the party's efficacy. Even with its overwhelming majority, the party had difficulty passing a necessary supplementary budget and floor leader Hong Joon-pyo narrowly avoided being removed from office a mere two weeks into the regular session. Though it seemed unlikely that the party would split along these factional divides, the party's difficulty passing uncontroversial bills boded ill for more contentious legislation.

Fighting between the Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak factions is old news, but the 2008 leadership crises in the GNP highlighted bickering within Lee's camp -- mainly between followers of Lee Jae-o and Lee Sang-deuk. This feud had been simmering since President Lee took office in February 2008. Lee Jae-o supporters felt that they were crucial to Lee Myung-bak's election and then were slighted by not receiving key positions in the new government. Instead, President Lee favored those close to his older brother, Lee Sang-deuk.

Meanwhile, Park Geun-hye continued to eschew cooperation with President Lee. Instead of throwing her support behind legislation that both MB and Park support -- like the KORUS FTA -- she preferred to sit back and watch the MB factions fight among themselves in a perfect example of Korea's "lose-lose" politics. In other words, there is no motivation to change the status quo as long as you are not losing more than your political opponent is. This was the core of the problem with the GNP leadership. Park Geun-hye's faction was trying to keep its distance from the MB factional feuding rather than broker an alliance with one faction or the other.

On 12 September 2008, the GNP passed a necessary supplementary budget bill in the Special Committee on Budget and Accounts, but the Democratic Party (DP) argued the procedure should be nullified because of a lack of a quorum in the 50-member special panel (GNP: 29; DP:14; Liberty Forward party coalition: 3; Non-negotiating Group: 4). The DP had boycotted the committee meeting as had seven of the GNP members -- all Park Geun-hye supporters. The GNP hastily appointed an additional member, but, because of a procedural error, National Assembly Speaker Kim Hyoung-oh refused to send the bill for a vote in the plenary session. The bill eventually passed on September 17, and the GNP started hearings to determine if the seven GNP lawmakers should be punished.

In the wake of the supplementary budget debacle, GNP Floor Leader Hong Joon-pyo came under attack. Leading the charge for Hong's ouster were the disgruntled Lee Jae-o acolytes, who want to find a way to increase their own influence. Representatives Jin Soo-hee, Kim Yong-woo, Chung Tae-gun, Kwon Taek-gi, and Kim Yong-tae asserted that Hong had ceded too much to the rival DP, and had failed to exploit the party's dominance in the parliament under his lackluster leadership. However, senior party officials, including GNP leader Park Hee-tae, and some Pro-Park members opposed Hong's resignation, saying there are no good alternatives.

For the first time in 16 years, on 14 April 2016 a South Korean ruling party failed to win a majority in a legislative election. The surprise losses suffered by President Park Geun-hye's Saenuri Party revealed widespread public discontent with her conservative economic policies and growing division over her "get tough" approach to the North Korean nuclear threat. The favored Saenuri party won only 122 out of 300 seats in the South Korean National Assembly, according to the National Election Commission. The main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea won 123 seats in the unicameral parliament.

Saenuri Party was expected to maintain a majority in the unicameral parliament. Recent polls had shown strong public support for Park’s tough policies to respond to the growing North Korean nuclear threat, including cutting the last cooperative inter-Korean tie by closing the jointly run Kaesong Industrial Project following the Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January, imposing increased sanctions, and increasing military readiness to respond to any provocations. There is a deep division within the Saenuri Party between members who are close to Park and those who remain distant from her.

South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party elected a new leader, Lee Jung-hyun, with close ties with President Park Geun-hye. Under Lee's leadership, the conservative party aimed to overcome its crushing defeat in the April 2016 parliamentary polls and prepare for the 2017 presidential election. The Saenuri Party held a national convention in Seoul on 09 August 2016 after its chief resigned to take responsibility for the election loss. Park called for party unity to regain public support. She said it must use the opportunity of the convention to gain the trust of the people. The convention then chose Lee as the new party leader. He had previously been Park's chief secretary for political and public affairs.

The political scandal surrounding a longtime confidante of President Park Geun-hye derailed South Korea, heralded a big upheaval in the political landscape and in the dynamics of presidential election scheduled for December 2017. Outlook for the presidential election got blurred as Saenuri Party lawmakers raised different voices according to political interests. The non-President Park faction within the ruling party, composed of scores of lawmakers, called on all of the party leadership to step down to take responsibility for the political crisis. Five potential presidential hopefuls of the governing party, including former Saenuri chairman Kim Moo-sung, gathered on 01 November 2016 to demand the resignation of the party leadership that was launched just around three months earlier.

On 23 December 2016 the ruling Saenuri Party chose 70-year old pastor In Myung-jin as its new interim leader, even as it faces an upcoming division of its two main factions. He had been an influential figure in the conservative political realm for a long time and he has vowed to completely overhaul the party. He also served as the chair of the ruling party's ethics committee.

At an emergency meeting on 21 December 2016, lawmakers from the wing of the ruling Saenuri Party who had distanced themselves from President Park Geun-hye said roughly 35 members of the group would leave the party next week to seek a truly conservative political platform. "We will go ahead and prepare to leave the party on the 27th with our fellow lawmakers."

The faction also vowed to eradicate factional politics by establishing a new conservative power capable of winning the presidential election next year. "President Park Geun-hye's lack of communication skills and constitutional breach has led to her impeachment. It's a national tragedy. ... We've come to the conclusion that it was impossible to lead reforms from within the Saenuri Party."

The group would need more than twenty lawmakers to form a separate negotiation body in parliament. Political observers predicted, however, that the non-pro-Park faction could get around 40, which would be enough to surpass the 38 seats held by the People's Party, making it the third largest political body in parliament.

The party's pro-Park members strongly denounced their counterparts, calling them cowards. They also said the non-pro Park group was just seeking to follow its own political interests and made the decision without any justification.

On said "It is regrettable that Representative Yoo Seong-min did not engage in any prior consultations with me." Yoo was the non-pro-Park wing's candidate for the interim leader of the party's emergency leadership committee. The pro-Park group's rejection of Yoo reignited the conflict between the factions, which had been simmering for the past year.

They were hoping to launch the party by 20 January 2017. "We are planning to complete all the necessary procedures for the new party before the Lunar New Year holiday so the public can get our message before then." Main opposition Democratic Party of Korea leader Choo Mi-ae condemned the split, saying all ruling party lawmakers share responsibility for the current crisis, and the breakaway faction doesn't get a pardon just because they're cutting themselves off from the pro-President Park faction.

The Liberty Korea Party struggled to find a strong candidate for president. The leading contender of the conservative camp was South Gyeongsang Province Governor Hong Joon-pyo, but his approval rating was 4 percent in a March 2017 Gallup opinion poll.

South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party decided 13 February 2017 to take on a new name in the wake of the scandal involving President Park Geun-hye. The party decided to rename itself the Liberty Korea Party at its national congress in Seoul. Party executives said they included the word "liberty" to express their endorsement of liberal democratic values and a market economy, and their aim to unify with North Korea. Saenuri's spokesperson said it reflected the party's commitment to a rebirth for the people, and its will to be reborn as a sincere conservative party.

Other names on the candidate list were - 'Happy Korea Party,' 'People First Party,' and 'Conservative Power.' The final name, and its English version, will be confirmed at national standing committee meeting. The ruling party would also create a new emblem that will likely symbolize Korea's national flag Taegeukgi - using its colors of red, white and blue.

It also planned revised rules to introduce a system that enables rank-and-file members to impeach executive members found to be involved in corruption. The revised party rule was also aimed at excluding those with criminal records from being nominated for political posts.

Future Korea Party

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) geared up its efforts to create a satellite political party after the ruling party and other opposition parties passed a contentious revision to the nation’s election rules. Reportedly, working-level preparations were nearly complete and the party can be registered as soon as the LKP leadership decides.

On 27 December 2019, a coalition of the Democratic Party and minor opposition parties voted for the electoral revision amid strong protests from the LKP. The revision calls for adopting mixed member proportional representation ahead of the general election set for April of next year, allowing minor parties to win additional seats in the event they receive more party ballots than their district candidates' individual victories. While announcing a plan to create a satellite party earlier, the LKP vowed to prove the electoral revision a mistake by winning many parliamentary seats through its affiliate party. The LKP's supplementary entity is expected to launch as early as mid-January 2020.

The National Election Commission has approved the formal registration of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party’s (LKP) satellite entity named the Future Korea Party. The election watchdog made the notice on its website 13 February 2020. The chairman of the satellite party is lawmaker Han Sun-kyo. The Future Korea Party filed its registration with the election commission last Thursday and under domestic law, the NEC must process the request within seven days if it meets the necessary conditions.

Earlier the ruling Democratic Party argued that the requirements were not met, saying that it found addresses for municipal and provincial chapters of the party that traced back to the same location as an LKP office or a remote storage site in a field. However the commission acknowledged that the Future Korea Party has met the requirements for its establishment.

The conservative party’s creation of an affiliate comes ahead of the April general elections when under a revised law, more proportional parliament seats will be doled out to parties in proportion to the number of votes they garner, regardless of whether or not they win constituencies.

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Page last modified: 24-06-2021 17:49:35 ZULU