Four reform-minded lawmakers of the Saenuri Party banded together to push for a “progressive” agenda and challenge a new, ever-enlarging mainstream loyal to presidential frontrunner Park Geun-hye.
Reps. Chung Doo-un, Nam Kyung-pil, Choung Byoung-gug and Kim Tae-ho said on Wednesday they will launch the “progressive right” group.
Gatherings of self-proclaimed reformists are not new to the conservative party. Minbon 21, a gathering of first-time lawmakers with a reform agenda, featured in the last National Assembly.
But the latest group led by the four powerful politicians is expected to wield greater influence leading up to the crucial Dec. 19 presidential election.
“A power that is not challenged or criticized is dangerous and prone to fail. There is a widespread regressive atmosphere at the Saenuri Party right now that goes against time. At this rate, it will be difficult to seize the (next) government, and even if we do, it will entail serious problems,” Chung Doo-un said via Twitter on Thursday.
All four are considered established politicians inside the party, with each coming from different political factions and backgrounds.
Chung was a member of the Supreme Council after joining candidacy with Nam in 2010 and won his third-term in his constituency in Seoul in April despite the poor showing of the Saenuri Party in the metropolitan region.
Fifth-term lawmaker Nam showed the power of reformative members as he ran a close race against pro-Park Rep. Lee Hahn-koo for the position of floor leader this month.
Chung, a four-term lawmaker, was a pro-Lee Myung-bak member and had even served as culture minister, while Kim is a former South Gyeongsang Province governor.
The group of four, supported by multihued careers and support bases, could have the potential to rise as one of the key factions in the play up to the presidential nomination at the ruling party, observers said.
News reports said Chung and Kim have hinted at the option of running for presidency, while Chung was quoted as saying in a radio interview on Wednesday, “We have to make the presidential primary a success at whatever cost.”
The group is likely to continue to expand, even beyond the Saenuri Party as former reformative members such as Kim Song-sik and Jeong Tae-keun are also reportedly set to join the group. Kim and Jeong had left the Saenuri Party last year after calling for a complete overhaul.
Party members showed mixed reactions to the new group, saying the reformative wind in the Saenuri could both work as an advantage and disadvantage to the party striving to break away from scandal-ridden incumbent government toward an image of reform.
The progressive right group’s first official event is set to be a forum inviting experts in political culture and reform in a near future, sources said.
Chung, in the meantime, explained the political characteristics of his new group.
“The Unified Progressive Party at present can be called reactionary left, while the majority in the Saenuri Party appear to be reactionary right. The four that gathered yesterday strive for the progressive right. We are therefore Saenuri’s progressive faction,” Chung said on Twitter on Wednesday.
“The words ‘progressive’ and ‘conservative’ are some of the most incorrectly used words in Korea,” Chung explained, adding that “conservative” upholds the present order while the progressive focuses on change.
“Simplified, when a market is prioritized, it is right, and when the government is prioritized, it is left. The Saenuri Party is a right-wing party, and the UPP is the left-wing party.”
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org