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Democratic Peace Party
People’s Party

More than a dozen lawmakers defected from the People's Party to form a new party of their own, saying the merger of the center-left People's Party and the center-right Bareun Party, obscured the party's political identity. They created the liberal Party for Democracy and Peace.

A group of lawmakers of the center-left People's Party on 28 January 2018 took the first step toward creating their own political entity in defiance of the leadership's plans to merge with a center-right party. Sixteen lawmakers, including Reps. Park Jie-won, Chung Dong-young and Chun Jung-bae, held a ceremony to mark the launch of the preparatory committee for the creation of the new party, the name of which roughly translates as the Democratic Peace Party. The ceremony held at the National Assembly in Seoul drew more than 1,000 attendees. A total of 2,485 people did work as promoters of the new party, according to the splinter group.

South Korea's third largest political party had some strong words for the Moon Jae-in administration. In his policy speech on 02 February 2018, Kim Dong-cheol -- the floor leader of the center-left People's Party said the government is pushing ahead with policies without much communication with opposition parties, experts or gathering public opinion -- leading to confusion and triggering side effects.

Listing a few -- the hefty minimum wage hike, plans to change irregular workers to regular employees, job creation in the public sector -- he claimed none of these initiatives have brought the changes desired by the government. "The fundamental problem of the Moon Jae-in government is that, the presidential office is involved everywhere -- and management of state affairs is done by pushing ahead with its agenda unilaterally."

Regarding the highly anticipated Constitutional amendment, the floor leader said that while a referendum should be held in tandem with the local elections in June, it must include a revision to the power structure -- as it's the root of corruption. He added that the proposal must be crafted at parliament, and not by the president.

Kim also called for a change in North Korea policies -- pushing for more than just dialogue saying that it's clear Pyongyang will never give up its nuclear ambitions. He said in the case of another provocation, Seoul must take stronger action. "If North Korea conducts a seventh nuclear test and China does not take strong action, such as cutting off oil supply completely, then South Korea must request for an agreement with the U.S. to share its nuclear assets. We can't just request and wait for China to impose sanctions."

He also warned the government that the reason behind its high approval rating is not its policies, but the public's distrust in the previous conservative government following a massive corruption scandal -- calling on the Moon administration to change the way it runs state affairs before it's too late.

When party leader Ahn Cheol-soo left the Minjoo Party, it was unclear whether the third-party experiment would be successful, but the April 2016 election made clear that the new party received wide support. The centrist People’s Party, a group recently spun off from the opposition Minjoo Party, won 38 seats in April 2016.

The People’s Party, which was formed by former presidential contender Ahn Cheol-soo and other defectors of the Minjoo Party of Korea, hoped to make an impact with sizable wins during the general elections. The new party urged the public to choose it over the Saenuri Party as a way of penalizing the Park Geun-hye administration for its failing policies, while it was trying to position itself as an alternative to what it called the hopeless major opposition party.

The minor opposition People’s Party led by Representatives Ahn Cheol-soo and Chun Jung-bae launched its election campaign committee 50 days prior to the April 13 general elections. The committee on 23 February 2016 held its inaugural meeting at the party’s headquarters in Seoul, implementing joint leadership comprised of the party’s co-chairmen Ahn and Chun, Representatives Kim Han-gil and Kim Young-hwan and Chung-Ang University Professor Emeritus Lee Sang-don. Rep. Kim Han-gil pledged to oversee a fair and transparent nomination process open to political rookies. Co-chairman Ahn said that his party is the right choice for reform-minded people that disapprove of President Park Geun-hye and the ruling party’s conservatism and for those frustrated with the incompetent main opposition party.

The minor opposition People's Party secured enough lawmakers to form a parliamentary negotiation group, about a month-and-a-half after establishing the party. The party secured its 20th lawmaker as Representative Chyung Ho-joon joined the minor opposition party on 16 March 2016. A negotiation group in the National Assembly can be formed after at least 20 legislators are secured. Chyung withdrew from the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea after he was excluded from the party’s list of nominated candidates for the April general elections.

Chyung told reporters in front of the party headquarters in Mapo, Seoul, that the structure of two main political parties had many evils and stressed the need for a party that can reflect diverse views and spectrum of the people. However, it was unclear whether the People’s Party will be able to maintain its newly earned status of a negotiation group as Representative Lim Nae-hyun was mulling over leaving the party after failing to win nomination as the party's candidate for the April 13th race.

The minor opposition People’s Party called the ruling Saenuri Party’s defeats in Seoul and nearby areas a "day of reckoning" and asserted it had absorbed votes from former Saenuri supporters. Lee Sang-don, the People’s Party’s election committee cochair, said the Saenuri Party’s defeats in the Seoul and surrounding areas were a voters' reckoning against the Park Geun-hye administration. He added that the People’s Party received votes from "rational conservatives" who had formerly backed the Saenuri Party in the 2012 general and presidential elections.

Cochairmen Ahn Cheol-soo and Chun Jung-bae of the People's Party resigned from their positions on 29 June 2016, taking responsibility for the so-called "rebate scandal." Investigators believe that the minor opposition party's key politicians received rebates from advertising companies for campaign materials although the party received state compensation for PR expenditures during the April elections.

The prosecution was probing the party's election finance manager, vice secretary-general and a first-term lawmaker, whose design company won suspicious subcontracts from ad firms that were producing campaign materials for the party during the elections. Investigators suspected that the newly elected Rep. Kim Su-min received 238 million won, or around US$200,000, in kickbacks from two ad agencies.

To fill the vacancy left behind by the resignation of its two cochairmen, on 29 June 2016 the minor opposition People's Party chose its floor leader to serve as the interim chief. The party's supreme council held an emergency meeting to decide on a collective resignation of the council members. The supreme council members chose Floor Leader Park Jie-won to lead the minor opposition camp until it holds a party convention early in 2017.

In July 2016 Seoul prosecutors sought arrest warrants for two lawmakers of the minor opposition People’s Party on charges of violating the political fund and election laws. The Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office asked the court to issue preliminary arrest warrants for Representatives Park Sun-sook and Kim Soo-min on 08 July 2016. The two were suspected of receiving more than 300 million won in illicit funds from PR agencies through forged contracts during the April general elections.

With legislative immunity from arrest in place, the prosecution would have to obtain parliamentary consent in order to make the two lawmakers appear for the court’s review of the warrants. Under the current law, sitting lawmakers are immune from arrest or detention unless they are caught red-handed. The National Election Commission(NEC) filed a complaint with the prosecution against Park, Vice Secretary General Wang Ju-hyeon and Rep. Kim Su-min on charges of receiving illicit funds from PR agencies, which were suspected of signing fake subcontracts with Kim’s design company “Brand Hotel” during the general elections.

A Seoul court again rejected a request to detain People’s Party representatives Park Sun-sook and Kim Su-min, who were charged with taking rebates from advertising firms for campaign materials during the general elections back in April. The Seoul Western District Court said 30 July 2016 that the chance of either of them fleeing is low given that they have a consistent residence. The court also brushed down concerns that the two lawmakers will destroy evidence. The court said that based on such circumstances, it believed that an arrest at the moment severely violates the suspects' right to defend themselves.

Prosecutors requested arrest warrants for Park and Kim early this month but they were dismissed by the court over the need to guarantee their right to defense. Now rejected twice, the investigation into the rebate scandal is expected to be more burdensome and challenging for the prosecution, which may now even come under criticism for being too forceful in carrying out the probe.

The minor opposition People's Party said in August 2016 it is even more determined to block THAAD after visiting residents in Seongju, the planned deployment site.

People's Party was under investigation in Juily 2017 for campaign attacks against Moon Jae-in during the presidential race based on materials that turned out to be fake. On 09 July 2017, the prosecution requested an arrest warrant for two more people in connection with the probe; a former senior party official, Lee Jun-seo, and the brother of Yi Yu-mi, a party member who did some work for the People's Party campaign.

The party spread evidence allegedly fabricated by Yi Yu-mi falsely claimed that President Moon's son used his father's connections to land a job at a state-run company. Yi Yu-mi is already in custody on related charges, and her brother was accused of helping her fabricate the evidence, which included a fake voice recording.

While Yi has admitted to some of the accusations, she says the former senior party official Lee Jun-seo was also involved. Lee Jun-seo has denied that he played any role, but with the revelation of text messages exchanged between him and Yi Yu-mi, the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors' Office decided further investigation is needed with Lee Jun-seo in custody. The widening probe caused major damage to the People's Party; with its approval rating plummeting as of Sunday to just 3.8 percent.

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