|A national flag is on the ground near Exco, Daegu, Monday, before the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) holds its joint speech session there for candidates of its leadership race on Feb. 27. / Yonhap|
By Park Ji-won
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) will hold its national convention Feb. 27 to choose a new leader and members of its Supreme Council.
However, it is being criticized for attracting ultra-right wing supporters and focusing more on satisfying them rather than promoting the individual candidate's political vision. The candidates for the leadership race continue to make controversial remarks purportedly seeking to impress so-called "Taegukgi troops," a group that allegedly supports impeached former President Park Geun-hye. The group has been expanding its presence after calling for the "nullification" of Park's impeachment for years, while actively participating in anti-government protests and political gatherings
Former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, a candidate for the leadership race, said during a televised debate Tuesday, "I don't agree with the validity of the impeachment of former President Park." He hadn't given an opinion on this until a few days ago, and the remarks were seen as showing he is still one of Park's supporters. Later, former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and Rep. Kim Jin-tae criticized him, saying Hwang should have spoken on the matter earlier.
Kim Joon-kyo, a candidate for the Supreme Council, also made controversial remarks at a joint stumping session Monday, saying, "Moon Jae-in is not a president, but rather a betrayer of the country. Let's impeach Moon Jae-in." He later apologized for not "respecting other candidates" after he was criticized, but attracted large public attention nonetheless.
Their remarks were likely in response to the extreme group's political mobilization, according to political insiders. The stumping session held in Daejeon and Daegu was attended by a large number of Taegukgi troops who have swung their support behind Kim. They have been participating in election events in large groups and heckle Hwang and Oh whenever they make speeches.
The group reportedly accounts for only 2 percent or about 8,000 of the LKP membership, but has been a very vocal minority.
Earlier, when the LKP's emergency leadership committee decided to expel a lawmaker who made defamatory remarks about victims of the May 18 Gwangju Uprising, more than 1,000 text messages were sent to interim chief Kim Byong-joon and the ethics committee chief to stop the expulsion.
Many people think the LKP should cut ties with the pro-Park group, while some claim it should embrace it.
In a nationwide poll of 502 adults conducted by Realmeter, Thursday, 57.9 percent said they think the LKP should abandon the Taegukgi group, while 26.1 percent said it should be part of the conservative party. The pollster said the survey shows that if the LKP cuts ties with the extremists, it may attract centrists and nonpartisan groups. But it added this might be difficult to do as most conservatives think the LKP should embrace the pro-Park group.
"The party's campaign has already been overwhelmed by the defamatory remarks about the May 18 movement, Taegukgi troops and Park's impeachment," a senior LKP lawmaker said. "It is no good for the party to fixate on the past if it wants to unify conservatives and win in the general election."