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Opposition party mired in strife over leadership election schedule

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party is mired in internal strife, with most contenders for the party's leadership threatening to boycott an upcoming election in protest of the party's refusal to reschedule it.

Six of eight candidates for the LKP's leadership election, slated for Feb. 27, want the conservative party to postpone the event by at least two weeks to avoid a clash with a second summit between the United States and North Korea slated for Feb. 27-28 in Vietnam.

But the party decided last week to hold the election as scheduled, prompting the contenders to announce their plan to boycott the key event ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections.


The six contenders, including former LKP chairman Hong Joon-pyo and former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, said they will not resister their candidacy on Tuesday if the party does not reverse its decision.

Then, only Hwang Kyo-ahn, who was prime minister under scandal-stricken President Park Geun-hye, and Rep. Kim Jin-tae, known as a far-right politician, would run in the election.

A national convention to pick the party's new leader to replace interim leader Kim Byong-joon is widely expected to be a race among three big-name candidates -- Hwang, Hong and Oh.

But the possible absence of Hong and Oh could make the event fizzle out as Hwang would then be expected to win the election overwhelmingly.

Hwang is viewed by conservative voters as one of the most favorable candidates for the 2022 presidential election, opinion polls showed.

Still, he faces stigma for being closely affiliated with former President Park, who was ousted in March 2017 due to a massive corruption scandal.

Hwang served as acting president when Park was suspended from office by parliamentary impeachment in late 2016. The LKP is still stung by the fallout from Park's ouster.

The LKP's election preparation panel plans to hold a meeting in the morning to discuss again whether to delay the event.

Park Kwan-yong, the committee chief, rejected an idea of postponing the election because of a few party members' interests.

"If the party breaks its own principles and delays the national convention, I will resign from my post," he added.

Incumbent LKP chairman Kim said the election should be conducted as scheduled.

"We need to line up for a battle before the outcome of the U.S.-North Korea summit comes out as we have a grave responsibility to tackle North Korea's nuclear issue, which has not been resolved at all," Kim said at a meeting with party officials on Monday.

"In that sense, the national convention should be held as scheduled," he noted. (Yonhap)