Four-term Rep. Joo Ho-young declared his bid Sunday to run in the main opposition Liberty Korea Party's leadership contest slated for next month, vowing to heal internal division and unite the fractured conservative bloc.
His entry into the increasingly crowded field of potential candidates for the Feb. 27 election came as the conservative party is pushing to reform itself, shore up public support and regroup in the face of the strong liberal ruling camp.
"Now is the time when we desperately need a new figure who can break the old mold and create a new one," he told a press conference.
"The party should not be driven by political goals or ambitions of one person and fissures should not be widened any further," he added.
Joo also underscored the need to bring together political conservatives.
"Should I become the leader, I will ensure conservatives from outside will join our party," he said.
The lawmaker also pledged to introduce a "project to nurture presidential candidates" under which the party can help promote their strengths and complement their shortcomings while shielding them from any negative campaigning.
Reps. Kim Jin-tae and Ahn Sang-soo have already declared their bids for the party leadership.
Former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn plans to declare his bid for the party helm on Tuesday, sources said.
But there is a controversy over his eligibility to run for the party leadership as there are conflicting party regulations.
Some lawmakers claim that the controversy is caused by the party's factions keeping Hwang's bid in check.
Earlier this week, the chief of the LKP called on Hwang, a former prime minister under the scandal-hit, ousted President Park Geun-hye, not to run in the party's leadership election.
LKP interim leader Kim Byong-joon claims that, with Hwang's bid, the party cannot break from images that it is affiliated with Park or her impeachment and that his election bid could deepen a factional divide that has recently been eased.
A recent poll showed that conservative voters prefer Hwang the most as a potential contender in the 2022 presidential election.
Still, Hwang faces the stigma of being closely linked to former President Park, who was ousted in March 2017 due to a massive corruption scandal.
He served as acting president when Park was suspended from office by parliamentary impeachment in late 2016.
Former Seoul Mayor Oh Sei-hoon and former party leader Hong Joon-pyo have also been bandied about as potential candidates. They are expected to make public their intentions for the election as early as this week.
Also Sunday, Chung Mi-kyung, a former lawmaker of the Saenuri Party, a precursor to the LKP, and Rep. Kim Gwang-lim declared their intentions to join the elections for the party's four Supreme Council seats, including one reserved for a female member.
Son In-Sung email@example.com
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