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Ex-FTA chief to promote growth with law

This is the first of a series introducing significant lawmakers-elect of the upcoming 19th National Assembly. ― Ed.

Among the 300 candidates who won parliamentary seats in last week’s general elections, 148 are newcomers to the National Assembly.

Many of these, though, are political heavyweights with plenty of administrative experience.

Kim Jong-hoon of the ruling Saenuri Party, former chief negotiator for the disputed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is one example. Having passed the Foreign Service Examination in 1974, Kim spent 37 years in the foreign ministry as a diplomatic and trade expert.

Kim Jong-hoon

Kim Jong-hoon

Kim won his first lawmaker’s badge in Seoul’s southern Gangnam-B constituency, by scoring 59.5 percent over his main opposition Democratic United Party rival Rep. Chung Dong-young’s 39.3 percent.

Even considering the district’s conservative voting tendency, Kim’s victory was considered meaningful as Chung is one of the liberal camp’s leading figures as well as a presidential potential.

“The DUP attempted to use the FTA issue as a tool to achieve left-wing unity, but was trapped in self-contradiction,” Kim said after the elections.

“I believe that the voters approved of my consistent dedication to free trade.”

Observers expected the former diplomat to join the parliamentary foreign affairs committee but Kim plans to set out for the land committee or the knowledge economy committee, to further follow up on the aftereffects of the effectuated trade deal.

Though he took a step back from diplomatic issues, the lawmaker-elect is still to play a crucial role in the latter half of the year when the presidential race gears up.

The right-wing’s interim leader and top presidential hopeful Rep. Park Geun-hye took control late last year after the trade deal ratification and has since spoken little over the delicate issue.

Should the opposition once again rise up over the anti-FTA talks, Kim’s presence in the house is expected to be of help to Park and the ruling party.

As Gangnam’s representative, Kim pledged to achieve a balance between growth and distribution, and blamed Seoul City’s excessive interference in redevelopment issues.

“The key factor in redevelopment is the consensus of the residents,” he said.

“Regulations should be kept at a minimal level, only making sure that the plan does not inflict damage on the surrounding environment or traffic.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (