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(2nd LD) Ruling party's feud deepens on purge of loyalists

2017/01/05 19:57

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout)

SEOUL, Jan. 5 (Yonhap) -- A power struggle in South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party grew uglier Thursday as the two protagonists continued to trade barbs, with one even calling the other a "pastor of death."

   The increasingly bitter fight between new leader In Myung-jin and vested factional boss Suh Chung-won is hobbling a drastic reform the party promised in the wake of an immense scandal involving President Park Geun-hye.

In, a former civic activist and Christian pastor who was appointed to head the party's ad hoc leadership body last week, fired his first salvo last Friday demanding Park loyalists leave the party to clear the deck for full-fledged reform.

His action was widely supported by party members including floor leader Chung Woo-taik but faced strong resistance from Suh, a staunch Park ally and one of the longest-serving lawmakers.

On Wednesday Suh called the interim head a "fraudulent clergyman," "liar" and "dictator."

   "Clerics are meant to save lives. (In) is the only cleric that invokes death," Suh told reporters Thursday. "(In) was too disrespectful to me. He shouldn't call me a malignant tumor." He said Saenuri made the "wrong" decision to invite In to the party.

In responded with a string of diatribes comparing Saenuri to a "church with Suh as a deacon."

Observers said In will focus on removing key loyalists, including Rep. Choi Kyoung-hwan and Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, while keeping other pro-Park members.

Rep. Chung, the party whip who recruited In as the interim head, on Thursday expressed "regret" toward some party members who "cling to privileges," asking Suh to resign from the party.

Around 30 Park loyalists, meanwhile, handed "carte blanche" to the party on Thursday, requesting In to determine their fate. Saenuri declined to disclose the full list.

In Myung-jin, the interim leader of the ruling Saenuri Party (Yonhap) In Myung-jin, the interim leader of the ruling Saenuri Party (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr

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