Political clock in South Korea changes rapidly on divided conservatives, Ban’s scheduled return

Interview of Mr. Ban Ki-moon to People’s Daily
Interview of Mr. Ban Ki-moon to People’s Daily

A political clock is rapidly changing in South Korea on the first division in almost three decades of the conservative bloc and the scheduled return of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who is seen as one of powerful presidential contenders.

The change was triggered by the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, who is waiting for the constitutional court’s final decision on whether to permanently remove her from office.

A group of 29 anti-President Park faction lawmakers declared a formal defection Tuesday from the ruling Saenuri Party, planning to launch a new party, tentatively named “New Conservative Party of Reformists” on Jan. 24.

It was the first division in the conservative camp since the four-party system emerged in the dynamic country in 1988. The minor opposition People’s Party, composed mostly of former members of the main opposition Minjoo Party, was launched earlier this year.

The divide lowered the number of Saenur legislators to 99, lower than 121 lawmakers of the Minjoo Party. The People’s Party has 38 seats in the 300-member assembly.

The political arena, led by two parties from both liberal and conservative camps, adds uncertainty to the country’s next presidential election, which is widely forecast to be held earlier than scheduled.

The court is expected to complete its deliberation on the parliamentary impeachment of President Park who has been branded by prosecutors as a criminal accomplice to her longtime confidante Choi Soon-sil by mid-March.

Nine judges of the court have up to 180 days to deliberate, but two of them are set to retire before mid-March, encouraging the justices to speed up the deliberation process. If President Park is finally forced out, a presidential election must be held within 60 days.

Lee Jae-myung, mayor of Seongnam, a city to the southeast of capital Seoul, expressed skepticism over the future of the new conservative party, raising a possibility for the “re-alignment of political parties.”

Historically, the conservative bloc regained presidential power in early 1990s by re-aligning the divided ruling and opposition parties according to respective political interests.

Lee told foreign correspondents in Seoul that people will not be deceived into supporting the new party, which he said had attempted a “name laundering” though they are also responsible for the influence-peddling scandal and the creation of the Park administration.

The mayor is a rising star in recent presidential polls who moved into a third place for his pointed criticisms of the Park administration and his social welfare policies in the Seongnam city.

Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the Minjoo Party, and outgoing UN chief Ban Ki-moon have run neck-and-neck in recent presidential surveys.

The greatest variable in an early presidential race would be Ban, whose second, five-year term is set to end by the year-end, given that there is no distinguished contender found from conservative politicians.

Both the new conservative party and the ruling party have sent love calls to Ban, while the People’s Party having its own presidential hopeful with lower approval scores also attempted to scout the career diplomat as its player in the party primary.

The Seongnam mayor said Ban’s popularity is now being exaggerated as he is a newcomer in the political scene. But, voters will focus on what he did as the UN chief rather than his splendid career of being elected as the top UN post, Lee said.

The media spotlight, Lee said, would be put on the outgoing UN chief’s moral qualifications, referring to recent media reports about his suspected corruption.

Over the weekend, local weekly magazine Sisa Journal reported that Ban took bribes worth 200,000 U.S. dollars in 2005 as the South Korean foreign minister and 30,000 dollars in 2007 as the UN chief from a South Korean businessman, citing multiple unidentified sources.

Ban’s spokesman sent an unusual press release to South Korean journalists to say that the Sisa Journal report was “completely false and groundless,” local media reports showed.

The magazine on Monday raised a suspicion involving Ban’s son, while reminding readers of the suspected secret relationship between Ban and Sung Wan-jong, a South Korean businessman who killed himself in April 2015 after leaving the name list of heavyweight politicians and the amounts next to the names, which were estimated to be bribes given to them, as a suicide note. Enditem

Source:Yoo Seungki, Xinhua/NewsGhana.com.gh

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