The Korea Herald


Cho Kuk’s new party most popular third party, so far

By Kim Arin

Published : March 12, 2024 - 17:36

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Cho Kuk speaks during a press conference at his party headquarters in Yeouido, central Seoul, on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Cho Kuk speaks during a press conference at his party headquarters in Yeouido, central Seoul, on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Among the several new third parties that have emerged out of the Democratic Party of Korea, the new party founded and headed by Cho Kuk, former justice minister under President Moon Jae-in, has so far seen the highest ratings, according to the latest polls.

In a March 5-7 Gallup Korea poll of 1,000 voters aged 18 and above, 6 percent said they would vote for Cho's Rebuilding Korea Party.

By contrast, 3 percent said they supported the New Reform Party headed by Lee Jun-seok, who was ousted as the People Power Party leader in 2022 over allegations surrounding a sexual bribery scandal. The New Future Party, formed by the Democratic Party’s former chair Lee Nak-yon, the Green Justice Party and the Progressive Party had a support rating of 1 percent each.

Cho is campaigning on a promise to keep Han Dong-hoon, the interim leader of the People Power Party who investigated his allegations as a senior prosecutor at the time, in check.

In a press conference Tuesday, Cho said if elected, he would push a bill to appoint a special counsel to investigate Han over “waging a politically motivated investigation” of him and his family. The former justice minister also said the ruling party leader was suspected of abusing privileges to improve his daughter’s chances of being accepted into top schools.

The ruling party is wary of how the Rebuilding Korea Party has been faring in polls.

Na Kyung-won, who was named the co-head of the People Power Party’s general election steering committee on Tuesday, said that the rising support for Cho’s party was “not good news” for the ruling party.

“We may be ahead of the Democratic Party in ratings right now, but we ought to be looking at the Democratic Party and the Rebuilding Korea Party’s ratings combined,” she said during a radio interview Monday.

“The Democratic Party and the new party merging forces, which is a plausible scenario, is not so desirable for us.”

Cho resigned following allegations of cheating to get his children accepted into prestigious schools and trying to interfere with the Moon presidential office’s investigation into Yoo Jae-soo, a close Moon aide, who was accused of accepting bribes. Yoo was sentenced to a suspended jail term of one year for bribery in 2022.

For both allegations, Cho received two years in jail and a fine of 6 million won ($4,600) in a second trial held in February. His wife, Chung Kyung-shim, was sentenced to four years in prison for their children’s school admission scandal by the top court in 2022 before she was released on parole in September last year for health reasons.

Cho is not the only member of his party to face a pending jail time.

Rep. Hwang Un-ha, the first and only incumbent lawmaker so far to join Cho’s party, also has a jail sentence to serve. In his first trial in November, the court gave him three years in jail for meddling with the Ulsan mayoral election to get a Moon ally, Song Cheol-ho, to win. Hwang has appealed the court’s ruling.