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Anti-Park lawmakers defect from S. Korea ruling party

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Lawmakers attend a plenary session to vote on the impeachment bill of President Park Geun-hye at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 9, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

South Korea's ruling party has officially split after scores of supporters of the impeachment of scandal-hit President Park Geun-hye defected and formed their own party.

A group of 29 lawmakers on Tuesday defected the ruling Saenuri Party, accusing it of defending Park, whom they described as the "worst-ever" offender against constitutional order.

"Our departure will provide momentum to turn the country's tragic incident -- the impeachment of its president -- into chances for the development of democracy," the lawmakers said.

They also slammed the party’s leadership for refusing to embrace reforms despite the political crisis that hit South Korea after Park became embroiled in a corruption scandal.

The defections left the ruling party with only 99 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, making it the second largest party in the chamber behind the liberal Democratic Party.

The defected lawmakers are among more than 60 Saenuri lawmakers who supported a parliamentary motion to impeach Park, which was passed overwhelmingly on December 9.

The first female president of the East Asian country has been accused of involvement in an influence-peddling case.

She allegedly colluded with long-time confidante Choi Soon-sil to pressure major corporations to contribute money to non-profit foundations that supported presidential initiatives. Park and Choi have denied any wrongdoing.

This file photo taken on November 29, 2016 shows South Korean President Park Geun-hye speaking during an address to the nation at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. (Photo by AFP)

The defectors also expressed their hope that outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the frontrunner in some presidential polls, would join their new party.

"We are hoping Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will join the New Conservative Party for Reform," Yoo Seong-min, a member of the new party and a possible presidential contender, told TV station SBS. 

Ban suggested that he may run for president of South Korea after his 10-year-long tenure at the world body ends early next year.

A poll conducted by Realmeter showed on Monday that 23.3 percent of respondents backed Ban, just ahead of the liberal Democratic Party's Moon Jae-in, at 23.1 percent.

The head of the People's Party, which has 38 seats in parliament, has also expressed its interest in having Ban as a member.

The Constitutional Court has up to 180 days to rule on the validity of the impeachment vote.

If impeachment is confirmed, presidential elections will be held in 60 days. The ballot is currently scheduled to be held in December 2017.


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