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South Korea Lawmakers Split From Ruling Party, Form New One

  • Wayne Lee

A group of lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party attends a press conference to announce to leave the party at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 27, 2016.

Twenty nine legislators have split from South Korea's ruling Saenuri Party over a corruption scandal centered on impeached President Park Geun-hye.

The lawmakers established a new party, unofficially named the New Conservative Party for Reform, that will launch on January 24.

The new party hopes to win the support of conservative voters who are displeased with the ruling party before the next presidential election. As part of the effort, the new party may try to convince outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to be its presidential candidate.

Ban has not said whether he will seek the presidency and, in a recent interview with VOA, deferred any public decision until his term as U.N. chief expires at the end of the year.

"When I retire from this job ... then I will have to discuss this matter with leaders of Korean society, my friends, my family," Ban said, adding that the "Korean people will overcome this crisis as soon as possible."

Ban is viewed as the strongest potential candidate for conservatives to reclaim the presidency after Park's impeachment complicated politics for her party. Recent polls show Ban is slightly ahead of liberal politician Moon Jae-in, who lost the presidential race to Park four years ago.

The lawmakers formed the new party as investigators expanded their investigation into the scandal involving Park.

The impeached president has been accused of colluding with a friend to extort money and favors from companies and to allow the friend to manipulate government affairs.

Margaret Besheer at the United Nations contributed to this report.

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