The main opposition Democratic United Party elected a veteran lawmaker, who leads one of its biggest factions, as the new floor leader Friday despite criticism he ran for the post after a backroom power-sharing deal with another faction.
Rep. Park Jie-won beat rival candidate Yoo Ihn-tae in a run-off with 67 votes against Yoo's 60. Two other contenders, Reps. Lee Nak-yon and Jun Byung-hun, were eliminated in the first round of voting, where neither Park nor Yoon won a majority of votes.
Park, the leader of the DUP's "Honam" faction comprising members hailing from the party's main support base in the Jeolla provinces in the country's southwest, has been under fire following revelations he ran for floor leader under a deal to share top party posts with another major faction.
Park had once considered running for party chief, but dropped the bid after the deal with Lee Hae-chan, a heavyweight politician who served as prime minister under late former President Roh Moo-hyun. Lee leads a DUP faction of former Roh loyalists.
The deal calls for Lee to take over as party chief in the June
9 national convention.
Critics in and outside of the party denounced the deal as undemocratic and unfair.
Park, who already served as the party's floor leader in 2010-2011, apologized over the agreement, but stressed it was part of efforts to help the party win December's presidential election.
Elections in South Korea are strongly swayed by regional favoritism, and the central logic behind the power-sharing deal is that as Park commands support from the Jeolla provinces and Lee from the central Chungcheong provinces, their sharing of the two top posts would boost the party's chances in the December vote.
Park will serve not only as the DUP's first floor leader in the incoming National Assembly, but he will also be responsible for running the party until a new party chief is selected in next month's national convention.
The four-year term of the new parliament begins on May 30.
Last month, then DUP Chairwoman Han Myeong-sook stepped down to take responsibility for the party's defeat in the April 11 parliamentary elections. Since then, actor-turned-politician Moon Sung-keun had run the party as acting chairman until Friday. (Yonhap News)