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(LEAD) Main opposition party asks corruption-tainted ex-president to leave

2017/09/13 11:39

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(ATTN: UPDATES with new info from para 4)

SEOUL, Sept. 13 (Yonhap) -- The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) on Wednesday asked corruption-tainted former President Park Geun-hye and two of her close allies to leave it as part of its personnel reform drive aimed at regaining public support.

The conservative party's reform panel made the decision after weeks of intense debate that laid bare a deep fissure between the reformists and those still sympathetic to Park who is currently on trial for a massive corruption scandal that led to her ouster in March.

The panel's departure recommendations for Park and Reps. Suh Chung-won and Cho Kyung-hwan came as the party has been seeking to unite the country's fractured conservatives to carve out a stronger parliamentary presence to keep the ruling bloc in check.

Lew Seok-choon (C), the chief of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party's reform panel, speaks during a press conference at the party headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 13, 2017. (Yonhap) Lew Seok-choon (C), the chief of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party's reform panel, speaks during a press conference at the party headquarters in Seoul on Sept. 13, 2017. (Yonhap)

"We have to recommend that Park voluntarily leave the party to take political responsibility for (a range of issues) including the failed candidate nomination for the parliamentary elections in April 2016 and the defeat in the presidential vote in May," Lew Seok-choon, the panel's chief, told reporters.

"If our recommendations are not accepted, we have to take steps (to force her out) in line with the party rules," he added.

Referring to Suh and Choi, Lew pointed out that they have a "heavy responsibility" to bear for the Park administration's failure that he said stemmed in part from factionalism fanned by Park's coterie.

Lew, then, stressed the need for other party members to work together to shore up internal unity.

The panel's decision is in line with LKP leader Hong Joon-pyo's repeated calls for sweeping personnel reform to refurbish their negative image associated with Park, start anew and create a momentum for a possible merger with other conservative forces.

A major rupture among the conservatives erupted in December when a group of lawmakers against Park bolted from the party amid a factional feud. The group formed the splinter Bareun Party in January.

Some Bareun Party members have demanded the removal of all LKP members loyal or sympathetic to Park to clear the way for any merger or alliance among conservatives.

sshluck@yna.co.kr

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