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(LEAD) Ex-Saenuri head departs on party feud

All Headlines 10:01 January 02, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details throughout, photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- Rep. Lee Jung-hyun, former head of the ruling Saenuri Party, left the party on Monday, bowing to pressure from a new interim leader on allies to President Park Geun-hye to clear the deck to refurbish the conservative party.

"As a former chief, I will take all responsibility and leave the party," Lee said.

Saenuri faces its biggest crisis with the president impeached by parliament on Dec. 9 over a raft of corruption and influence-peddling allegations. A group of 29 lawmakers left Saenuri last month to establish the tentatively named New Conservative Party for Reform.

Lee had stepped down from his post in mid-December with other leaders to take responsibility for the passage of the impeachment motion.

Park was impeached amid suspicions that her confidante Choi Soon-sil exercised influence over key state affairs and used her ties with Park for financial gains and personal favors. State prosecutors identified Park as an accomplice.

In Myung-jin, appointed the head of the emergency leadership panel, earlier threatened a sweeping purge of key loyalists to Park, calling on them to leave the party. He said they should take responsibility by leaving the party voluntarily by Jan. 6.

Lee said he does not wish to become a hurdle for the new leader. Political pundits said Lee's decision came out of the hope that his departure will end the purge of Park-loyalists in Saenuri.

Rep. Lee Jung-hyun (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr
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