Disgraced ex-justice minister seeks to shake up South Korea election

Disgraced ex-justice minister seeks to shake up South Korea election
Disgraced ex-justice minister seeks to shake up South Korea election

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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Cho Kuk, a liberal and confidante of former President Moon Jae-in, is likely to ally - but not merge - with the democrats who currently have a majority in parliament. — AFP pic

SEOUL, March 27 — A minor South Korean opposition party launched by disgraced former justice minister Cho Kuk has emerged as potentially the strongest spoiler to the chances of either of its two major parties securing a majority in next month’s parliamentary election.

Cho, a liberal and confidante of former President Moon Jae-in, is likely to ally - but not merge - with the democrats who currently have a majority in parliament. He has mainly been courting Democratic Party (DP) members disenfranchised by party leader Lee Jae-myung, once an archrival of Moon.

Both Cho and Lee are involved in criminal cases for separate fraud and corruption charges - which they deny - but their alliance could prove problematic for conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol, a former top prosecutor whose meteoric political rise came after he clashed with his predecessor Moon while leading the fraud investigation into Cho’s family.

Cho said his aim is for the opposition camp to gain sufficient seats in the election to make Yoon a “dead duck” president.

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“If the Democratic Party and our party secure significant numbers, we can create a crack in Yoon’s administration,” Cho told a news conference today.

“We can make him a lame duck first, and then a dead duck. I don’t know whether that person will be able to finish his remaining three years or he will be impeached, but our goal is to politically incapacitate him.”

Yoon’s office did not immediately response to a request for comment.

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Cho’s Rebuilding Korea Party is aiming for at least 10 seats, a fraction of the single-chamber, 300-seat assembly, but with polls showing the election too close to call it may be enough to prevent either of the two main parties winning an outright majority.

Yoon’s People Power Party and the DP should get at least 110 and 82 of the 254 elective seats, respectively, in the April 10 election, according to an analysis released on Tuesday by the Yonhap news agency based on internal party surveys and pollster estimates.

Some 60 areas are deemed too close to call or minor party strongholds, and 46 proportional representation seats will be allocated to each party based on the total number of votes cast.

Cho’s party is only in the race for the proportional representation seats, but is seen by pollsters as the only minor group to get 10 or more seats in the assembly.

People Power said it had no information to offer, but Han Dong-hoon, a former fellow prosecutor who currently heads the party, has described Cho and Lee as “extremists” and their coalition as a “harmful collusion,” saying they were seeking to impeach Yoon to serve their own personal interests, retaliate against the country’s justice system and destroy democracy, diplomacy and the economy.

Cho is awaiting a Supreme Court review after a lower court sentenced him to two years in prison for fabricating documents to facilitate his children’s school admissions.

The scandal divided the already polarised country and frustrated many young voters, and eventually contributed to the downfall of Moon’s government and Yoon’s victory in the 2022 presidential election, with Lee taking over the DP leadership.

Cho has said he respects the court rulings, but noted Yoon and Han did not face any investigations into alleged irregularities involving their own families, a claim that both have previously dismissed. — Reuters

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