Twenty-nine lawmakers on Tuesday deserted the ruling Saenuri Party and announced their plan to found a new outfit tentatively called the New Conservative Party for Reform.
The desertion of the lawmakers, none of whom belong to the faction loyal to embattled President Park Geun-hye, reduces Saenuri's seats from 128 to 99 so it is no longer the biggest party in the National Assembly.
The distinction goes instead to the main opposition Minjoo Party, which has 121 seats.
Senior Lawmaker Kim Yong-tae, who already quit Saenuri along with Gyeonggi Province Governor Nam Kyung-pil on Nov. 22, joined the new party, bringing its total seats to 30. Nam is also expected to join.
The new party hopes to recruit as their presidential hopeful UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who retires this weekend and returns home next month, and could join hands with the People's Party and a Minjoo faction who do not want party heavyweight Moon Jae-in to become the next president.
Meanwhile, six more Saenuri lawmakers, including Shim Jae-cheol and Na Kyung-won, who had originally agreed to break away from Saenuri, postponed their decision until they have sufficient backing from their supporters.
"About 10 more Saenuri lawmakers have pledged to watch the political situation and leave the party by mid-January," the new party's floor leader Joo Ho-young said. "We hope that more than 60 lawmakers will join us before we officially launch the new party" on Jan. 24.
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Saenuri lawmakers pose after announcing their desertion of the ruling party in Seoul on Tuesday.