“It is regretful that I cannot stay until the end,” firebrand conservative politician Hong said in a statement sent to party members.
“This national convention has to be one where candidates are fairly verified for our party to start afresh.”
Hong’s withdrawal is widely viewed as a reaction to imprisoned former President Park Geun-hye having a significant impact on the convention.
Hours before the announcement, Hong posted on social media, “There is no future for this party if it does not start afresh and leave the legitimacy of the impeachment up to history.”
Last week, a rare TV interview by Park’s confidant and lawyer Yoo Young-ha conveyed Park’s disappointment at former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who is running for the party’s leadership.
Park remains influential in the party’s stronghold of the Gyeongsang provinces, a region vital to winning the party’s leadership.
Meanwhile, the Liberty Korea Party confirmed the convention will be held Feb. 27 as scheduled, though six of eight candidates have called for it to be postponed.
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org)