SEOUL, Oct. 18 (Yonhap) -- The leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) is actively reaching out to potential presidential contenders in an apparent bid to integrate conservative political forces.
The party is still reeling from its humiliating defeat in the June local elections, which resulted from the aftermath of a massive corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and an ensuing split of the conservative bloc early last year.
Kim Byong-joon, chief of the party's emergency leadership panel, had a lunch meeting last week with former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, who served as acting president when Park was suspended from office from late 2016 to early 2017, party officials said Thursday.
A recent poll showed that conservative voters prefer Hwang the most as a contender for the 2022 presidential election.
Kim asked Hwang to join his party to help expand the scope of conservative forces, according to party officials. Hwang avoided an immediate answer, but they shared the need that conservatives should join hands.
Political analysts predict that Hwang may come forward if the LKP opens its door to conservative figures not affiliated with the party at next year's national convention to elect its leadership.
In a related move, Kim also plans to meet Won Hee-ryong, the governor of the southern island of Jeju, on Thursday.
Won, who has a reformist image, previously belonged to the Saenuri Party, the LKP's predecessor. But he defected from the party in January 2017 following former President Park's impeachment and joined the Bareun Party that spun off from the LKP. He currently has no party affiliation.
Kim is expected to appeal for Won's cooperation for conservative unity. The request may not gain immediate traction as Won recently said that he will focus on provincial affairs, experts said.
The minor conservative Bareunmirae Party (BP) denounced the LKP's move as an old-fashioned way of increasing the size of conservative forces.
"The LKP does not deserve to represent the conservative blocs," Sohn Hak-kyu, the BP's chief, said on Oct. 12. "It is the party that should disappear at the next parliamentary election."
The BP came into being in February through a merger of two center-right and center-left parties.
Source: Yonhap News Agency