|Former Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung, who is leading a campaign to oust followers of President Park Geun-hye from key party posts, speaks to reporters during a visit to an industrial site in Daegu, Tuesday. / Yonhap|
By Kim Hyo-jin
A group of Saenuri Party lawmakers, who have demanded the resignations of loyalists to President Park Geun-hye from key party posts, launched their own "emergency committee" Tuesday, to drive out pro-Park figures.
Party Chairman Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, a diehard pro-Park figure, harshly criticized the move, saying he will not succumb to their demands.
The feud inside the ruling party is now developing into an all-out war between the Park loyalists who are controlling the party and other factions.
The newly formed rival faction includes 12 notable lawmakers opposing the President, some of whom apparently have presidential ambitions.
The list includes bigwigs and potential presidential candidates _ former Chairman Kim Moo-sung, ex-floor leader Yoo Seong-min, former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, Gyeonggi Province Governor Nam Kyung-pil, his predecessor Kim Moon-soo, Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong and Na Kyung-won, ex-chairwoman of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee.
The move indicated that the ruling party has virtually collapsed and the division between rival factions remains irreversible, according to party officials.
The lawmakers from the non-Park faction held an "emergency committee" meeting and protested the incumbent party leadership led by Lee.
The committee is scheduled to be officially launched on Nov. 18.
Lee has been pressured to quit amid the influence-peddling scandal involving the President and her confidant Choi Soon-sil.
However, he remains adamant in keeping the post, saying he can only step down when the paralysis gripping the country is eased.
Lee said Monday he plans to hold a national convention to elect a new leader on Jan. 21 and he will step down sometime in December, bringing a strong backlash from the dissenters.
He dismissed the emergency committee as an unofficial intra-party gathering, criticizing the members as having no legitimate leadership in the party.
"I can only accept their opinion but it's just one of many groups made up of party members," Lee told reporters later in the day.
He directed his criticism at four of the prominent faction members. "Their aggregated approval ratings are less than 10 percent," he said. "They have no right to present themselves as Saenuri's potential presidential candidates."
Amid the scandal, the party's approval ratings dipped to the lowest in its history at 19.2 percent in a Realmeter poll conducted between Nov. 7 and 11. The second largest opposition People's Party is chasing it tightly with support of 15.3 percent while the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea is leading the poll by a large margin with 32 percent.
In Daegu and North Gyeongsang Provice, the traditional conservative hometurf, the Saenuri Party fell to second place for the first time in polling history with 24.9 percent, trailing the main opposition party which garnered 25.5 percent.