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New Reform Party rattled by internal fissures ahead of election

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : March 22, 2024 - 18:25

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New Reform Party Floor Leader Yang Hyang-ja, left, speaks during an intra-party meeting, while seated next to New Reform Party Chair Lee Jun-seok, at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap) New Reform Party Floor Leader Yang Hyang-ja, left, speaks during an intra-party meeting, while seated next to New Reform Party Chair Lee Jun-seok, at the National Assembly in western Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

The New Reform Party, a "big tent” aimed at capturing voters disaffected with the main two parties, has been rattled by another round of internal rift ahead of the April 10 legislative election.

The party’s Floor Leader Rep. Yang Hyang-ja on late Thursday pledged to continue supporting the New Reform Party, two days after she hinted at leaving.

Yang had expressed disagreement with the list of candidates selected by the other leadership members for the upcoming election, and was set to hold a press briefing regarding her “future plans” on Thursday, but canceled the event at the last minute.

“I apologize for the confusion I have caused regarding my ‘future plans,'” Yang said in a Facebook post.

“I plan to (stick with) the New Reform Party for the upcoming election,” she added.

Yang, a former Samsung Electronics executive, had pushed for the nomination of Lee Chang-Han, the vice chairman of the Korea Semiconductor Industry Association, but was disappointed by Lee not making the cut, observers had said.

“I disagree with the list that does not include any talents from the fields of science,” she explained in a post uploaded late Wednesday.

Yang’s own party Hope of Korea was the first third party to merge with the New Reform Party in late January. The merger came soon after former People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok officially launched the New Reform Party on Jan. 20.

The latest signs of an internal rift follow former Prime Minister and the New Future Party Chair Lee Nak-yon’s decision to leave the New Reform party last month, just 11 days after a party merger.

Observers said Lee Nak-yon and Lee Jun-seok failed to agree on election pledges.

With the deflated “big tent” and internal fissures affecting voter sentiment, the New Reform Party’s popularity has been eclipsed by another third party in recent weeks.

According to the latest Gallup Korea poll, voters’ support for the Rebuilding Korea Party launched by ex-minister Cho Kuk has been swiftly growing.

The party ranked No. 1 among third parties in terms of voter popularity, receiving 8 percent support. It outranked the New Reform Party which saw 3 percent and Lee Nak-yon’s New Future Party which saw 1 percent. The poll involved 1,001 Koreans aged 18 or older and was conducted from Tuesday to Thursday.