Former Uri Party chairman Chung Dong-young quit the besieged party
yesterday, pledging to pursue a wide alliance capable of competing
against the popular conservative Grand National Party in the December
Chung is a presidential hopeful in the liberal camp and formerly the leader of the Uri Party's largest faction.
"There are those who have already left the party and there are
also those who will desert it later, but I firmly believe all of us
will eventually be reunited in a place of a grand alliance -- the land
of promise," Chung said at a news conference in the National Assembly.
He also said, "I will create a new party of grand alliance this July at the latest."
To discuss unity, Chung plans to have a series of meetings with
leaders of the liberal groups, including former Uri chairman Kim
Beginning this year, the Uri Party was hit by the defections of over 60
legislators, due largely to its slim chances of winning in the upcoming
election. The once-ruling party and its presidential hopefuls suffer
from rock bottom popularity as voters blame the Roh Moo-hyun
administration for runaway home prices and slow economic growth.
Amid a backlash against the Roh government, the GNP and its presidential contenders have been enjoying overwhelming popularity.
The nation's liberal forces are split into several groups; the Uri
Party, its splinter groups, the Democratic Party and civic groups.
The groups' alliance drive picked up pace recently with the December vote drawing near.
The DP and a group of 21 legislators, who quit the Uri Party,
said yesterday that they would accept calls from Uri's other breakaway
group to hold talks on an alliance.
The two groups said that they delayed a plan to launch their own party
to June 27 to recruit more legislators who resigned from the Uri Party.
But they said that the unpopular Uri Party should be excluded
from the alliance, portending an uphill battle on their dialogue with
Uri defectors, who called for lifting membership restrictions.
"I do not consider having negotiations with those who are affiliated with the Uri Party," DP leader Park Sang-cheon said.
As the progressive groups' alliance drive picks up pace, a flock
of liberal presidential aspirants has moved closer to entering the
Sohn Hak-kyu, an independent who touts the highest approval rating
among the nation's liberals, of around 5 percent, on Sunday launched
his support group dubbed the Movement for Advance and Peace, taking an
important step toward the presidency. Sohn defected from the GNP in
Han Myeong-sook, a former prime minister affiliated with the
Uri Party, also announced her presidential bid yesterday. Lee Hae-chan,
a former minister and an Uri member, and other liberal legislators plan
to follow suit.
A pack of liberal hopefuls suffer from meager public support as
shown in polls in a race dominated by two strong GNP contenders --
former Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak and former GNP chairwoman Park
By Jin Hyun-joo