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Conservative bloc divided over Han’s role in election defeat

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : April 16, 2024 - 15:38

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Han Dong-hoon announces his resignation from his position as interim chair of the People Power Party's emergency response committee, at the ruling party headquarters in western Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap) Han Dong-hoon announces his resignation from his position as interim chair of the People Power Party's emergency response committee, at the ruling party headquarters in western Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Several members of the conservative bloc have exchanged blows among themselves in recent days, locking horns over whether the ruling party’s former interim leader is to blame for the devastating defeat in last week’s general election.

Daegu Mayor and five-term conservative lawmaker Hong Joon-pyo kicked off a round of intense debate Friday by blaming Han for the People Power Party’s latest loss through a Facebook post.

“(The People Power Party), which has survived the river of impeachment is now ruined because of Han Dong-hoon, who is not only disqualified (as a leader), but considered himself as a political celebrity who only took selfies and (did not take) the situation seriously,” Hong wrote Friday.

“Han should never even be seen near our party,” he added.

Though Hong later deleted Friday’s post, he has shared at least two follow-up Facebook posts criticizing Han so far, including one uploaded Monday warning the former justice minister to “brace for a special probe.” Cho Kuk, leader of the Rebuilding Korea Party, a liberal ally of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, had hinted at drafting a special probe bill into Han ahead of last week's election.

Activist Kim Kyung-yul, a former member of the ruling party’s emergency response committee, shot back through a radio interview Monday. Kim said that Hong is disqualified from making such remarks due to his “inappropriate” behavior as a politician, and dismissed the Facebook posts as an attempt to bring down a potential opponent ahead of the next presidential election.

People Power Party Rep. Kim Woong echoed Kim Kyung-yul on Monday, saying Hong’s remarks are not a form of “proper criticism, but rather relentless name calling.”

“(Hong calling Han) a hunting dog and an incompetent leader who has mistaken himself as a celebrity is not a form of criticism, but rather relentless name calling. If you actually believed Han (was not qualified as our party leader) then why didn’t you go against the decision to name him (as interim leader in December last year),” Kim Woong wrote on his own Facebook page.

Han had remained silent on the ongoing mudslinging surrounding him as of Tuesday.

Last week, Han announced his resignation as chair of the People Power Party emergency response committee, saying he takes responsibility for the election defeat.

Han was appointed as the ruling party’s interim leader in December last year, after former party chair Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon stepped down following a nine-month tenure. Kim had expressed hope to fuel intraparty reform through his resignation at the time.

Through the latest legislative election, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea and its satellite party won a total of 175 seats in the single-chamber, 300-member Assembly. The People Power Party and its sibling party secured a total of 108 seats.

Meanwhile, the ruling party on Tuesday announced the launch of a new emergency leadership committee after Han stepped down from his interim leadership role last week.

“The nature (and goal) of the new leadership committee will not be to bring about an innovation, but more of a practical one to prepare for the upcoming party convention,” People Power Party Floor Leader and acting Chair Yoon Jae-ok told reporters.

Observers say that the ruling party is projected to nominate and name a new chairperson at the party convention, which is expected to be held in June.