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(LEAD) Ex-health minister quits ruling party over nomination row

All Headlines 18:45 March 17, 2016

(ATTN: UPDATES with comments by ruling party official)

SEOUL, March 17 (Yonhap) -- Chin Young, a former health minister, announced Thursday that he will leave the ruling Saenuri Party, as a factional battle deepens over the nominations for next month's parliamentary elections.

Chin said he could not accept the party nomination committee's decision to exclude him from consideration for the ticket for the April 13 general elections.

"I am leaving the Saenuri Party after 20 years of devotion," Chin told lawmakers, saying that the party has turned against him.

Chin, however, said that he has not decided whether or not to run for his constituency in Yongsan, central Seoul, as an independent or join another party.

The three-term lawmaker was initially considered a member of the pro-Park Geun-hye faction within the party, and served as the first health minister under the Park administration.

Chin, however, was sacked in 2013 following a high-profile conflict with the presidential office over the downsizing of the pension program for senior citizens.

Chin's departure on Thursday highlights the party's long-running factional feud between legislators loyal to Park and their opponents.

Chairman Kim Moo-sung has long been at odds with the pro-Park faction over how to select candidates for the elections and other matters.

Kim has pushed ahead with reforming the party since resuming the chairman post in 2013, such as proposing a nomination system designed to allow ordinary people to select candidates for the parliamentary elections.

Earlier on Thursday, the party's senior members, mostly made up of pro-Park lawmakers, held a meeting without Kim to discuss the nomination process.

Kim openly criticized Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, head of the party's nomination committee, for abusing the power to make unilateral choices in favor of the pro-Park faction. Lee and his supporters shot back and said the party's chairman is over-stepping his authority and fueling factional infighting.

A number of lawmakers opposed to the pro-Park faction, including heavyweight Lee Jae-oh and Yim Tae-hee, a former two-term lawmaker, have failed to receive the party ticket.

A ruling party official, who is familiar with the situation in the presidential office, said those who caused trouble and confusion between the ruling party and the government should be held responsible.

"Anyone who did not play a responsible role in state affairs as a member of the ruling party can leave the party," the official said, adding he or she can run for elections as independent candidates if they want.


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