Korea opposition leader stakes leadership on party reform

The main opposition party leader said Wednesday he would leave his post as chairman if the party disapproves a package of reform measures, amid an escalating party feud that has increased pressure on him to resign.

In an emergency press conference, Rep. Moon Jae-in proposed a vote of confidence in his leadership in line with the fate of the controversial reform measures, and urged the party to end factional infighting. He called for the unity of the party in order to win the general election next year and the presidential election in 2017.

"If the reform proposal fails to pass, I will step down from the post of chairman," he said.

"But if (the council) approves the proposal and renews confidence in my leadership, let us put an end to controversy over my position."Moon's abrupt decision came as he came under growing pressure to resign from members of the party who remain sceptical of the reform proposals.

The proposals call for an electoral committee of nonparty members to nominate candidates for the next parliamentary elections in April. The panel also suggested offering extra points to fresh figures, women and the handicapped in the nomination process. Earlier in the day, a subcommittee at the New Politics Alliance for Democracy passed the proposal, but it has to get a final endorsement from the party's executive council. The council plans to put the proposal to vote next Wednesday.

Moon putting his leadership on the line was seen as his last resort to put a break to intensifying factional feuds between pro-Roh Moo-hyun members, regarded as mainstreamers in the party, and nonmainstream members.

"Recent cases of (party members) publicly attempting to shake the party and divide the party have just crossed the line," he said, without mentioning names. "To save the party, tighten discipline and build principle, it is inevitable to call for a vote of confidence in my leadership."

The surprise press conference was also held a few hours after Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, a former joint party leader, met party defector Chun Jung-bae to discuss the future of the opposition party. Chun, who recently won a parliamentary seat in a by-election as an independent candidate, has reportedly asked Ahn to join a new party he plans to launch.

Ahn on Sunday lashed out at the NPAD reform committee, saying its attempt to reform the party had failed and that he has different views from Rep. Moon.

Ahn, a software mogul-turned-politician, urged the reform committee to overhaul the party in a way to break away from what he described as "outdated" liberal values that resonate little with the general public.

Meanwhile, some observers say that Moon was making a calculated move as the party's executive council is very likely to pass the proposal. More than 60 per cent of the council belong to his faction, said Hwang Tae-soon, a political commentator on a cable TV show.