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(LEAD) Saenuri's 8-term lawmaker accuses interim head of carrying out purge

All News 16:13 January 09, 2017

(ATTN: ADDS details on leadership panel meeting in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 9 (Yonhap) -- Rep. Suh Chung-won of the ruling Saenuri Party on Monday sued its interim head for allegedly forcing loyalists of President Park Geun-hye to leave the party, adding In Myung-jin has also falsely defamed its lawmakers.

The move came as the interim head, requested that loyalists leave the party by last week as a sign of taking responsibility for the alleged influence-peddling scandal that resulted in Park's impeachment in December. The so-called purge of loyalists mainly targeted the eight-term lawmaker.

The tension deepened as the two called each other names, with Suh calling the interim head, who also served as a preacher, a "false clergyman." In shot back by comparing Saenuri to a "church with Suh as a deacon."

Suh said forcing lawmakers to leave is a clear breach of the party rules and defamation of members.

"Forcing a withdrawal is obstructing the exercise of rights of lawmakers, which establishes coercion as an offense under the criminal law," Suh said, adding In also sought to obstruct normal operations of the party by abusing his authority.

Suh said In also violated the freedom to assemble, join and leave parties, which can also be considered violations of human rights.

The lawmaker said he also regrets tapping the "left-leaning" priest as the party's interim head.

Saenuri has been suffering from a second round of feuds, after a group of lawmakers left last month to establish the tentatively named Righteous Party, which will officially launch later this month.

The party, meanwhile, failed to hold a meeting on appointing members of the emergency committee on Monday due to the lack of a quorum. Saenuri also failed to hold the meeting Friday due to a lack of minimum participants.

There has been suspicion that Park's loyalists boycotted the meeting in protest against In's recent aggressive drive for party reforms. The party will try again to hold a meeting later this week, sources said.

A group of 31 Saenuri first-term lawmakers delivered a joint statement Monday supporting In's restructuring of the party.

The lawmakers said In's innovative policy will help Saenuri regain trust from the people. The group, however, said the democratic procedures should be respected, indicating they are maintaining "middle ground" on the ongoing feud.

Rep. Suh Chung-won of the ruling Saenuri Party (Yonhap)


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