The Democratic United Party on Friday elected veteran politician Rep. Park Jie-won as their new floor leader as they brace for an uphill battle against the ruling Saenuri Party in the incoming parliament and presidential election at the end of this year.
The right-hand man of late President Kim Dae-jung will double as the chair of the main opposition party’s emergency committee, which will be replaced by new leaders chosen at the national convention slated for June 9.
Park came out the winner of a closely fought run-off against Yoo In-tae, a close confidant of the late President Roh Moo-hyun, 67:60.
Jun Byung-hun and Lee Nak-yeon were dropped in the first-round vote. The party’s 127 lawmakers-elect participated in the election.
Park has a lofty burden to carry as the chief floor negotiator, including an expected tug-of-war with the Saenuri over committee seats in the 19th National Assembly, as well as the critical task of nominating a competent presidential candidate to go up against Saenuri frontrunner Park Geun-hye for the Dec. 19 presidential election.
Park’s win was seen as an indication of the party’s desire for unity between the pro-Roh faction and the pro-Kim group.
“A certain power group should not abuse full authority in any case,” Park said in his victory speech, apparently mindful of the factional rivalry.
“We can seize the next administration only when the organizational power of the Federation of Korean Trade Unions, the transparency and ethicality of the civil society, the sense of challenge by the pro-Roh group, and the dexterity of the Kim Dae-jung group integrate chemically,” Park said.
Revelation that Park made a backdoor agreement with Lee Hae-chan, a former prime minister and one of the key pro-Roh members, to share the two top leadership posts had initially sparked intense opposition internally, especially from other potential chairperson candidates and neutral first-termers.
Park, representing the old-school faction, apologized for their informal deal but explained it was an effort to narrow the factional crevice.
The DUP won 127 seats out of the 300-member Assembly. The Saenuri Party won 152 seats but saw two lawmakers-elect depart the ruling camp over personal scandals.
The DUP has struggled to capitalize on President Lee Myung-bak’s lame-duck status due to factional discord, leading to the lack of a powerful candidate to vie in the presidential election.
Some of the potential presidential candidates include former chief of staff in the Participatory Government Moon Jae-in, South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Doo-kwan and former DUP chairman Sohn Hak-gyu.
Moon was also criticized alongside Park for allegedly approving of the backdoor alliance with Lee Hae-chan.
The election for the party’s new leadership is to be held at KINTEX, Ilsan, by party members under the party’s charters. Among the chairperson candidates are Lee Hae-chan and former party spokesperson Woo Sang-ho.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com