The main opposition party elected Rep. Kim Han-gil as the new chairman and renamed itself as the Democratic Party on Sunday, as it seeks to recover from election defeats and to grow its supporter base.
|Rep. Kim Han-gil holds up a hand after being confirmed as the new chairman of the Democratic Party on Sunday. (Yonhap News)|
“I feel heavy responsibility for being elected with overwhelming support from the party and the public. The fact that I, who do not belong to any faction, have been elected is a symbol of big changes for the Democratic Party,” Kim said.
He added that he will remove factionalism from the party and unite its members.
Kim also called on the government to establish a negotiation group in which the president and the heads of the ruling and opposition parties take part.
“I suggest a ruling-opposition negotiation group in which the president participates. The Democratic Party is prepared to fully cooperate with the government and the ruling party if it for the livelihood of the people,” Kim said. He went on to warn that the party will show its “frightening” side of the government “ignores the people and the opposition party.”
Kim is a four-term lawmaker who is said to be a sharp strategist credited to have played vital roles in the election campaigns of former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
Along with the new chairman, Reps. Shin Kyoung-min, Cho Kyoung-tae, Yang Seoung-jo and Woo Won-shik were elected as members of the party’s supreme council.
Since being defeated in last year’s presidential election, the main opposition has been suffering from dropping support and factional infighting.
Being blamed for the defeat, the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction, which has dominated not only the Democratic Party but also the progressive bloc in recent years, has been pushed into an increasingly precarious position.
The struggling party was dealt another blow in the April 24 by-elections in which it failed to win any parliamentary seats, and local administration and assembly seats.
In addition, the return of its former ally Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo has raised concerns about its future.
Although Ahn has yet to decide whether he will establish a new party, observers say that a party led by the former presidential candidate could destabilize the Democratic Party’s role as the main opposition.
The party has also been accused of abandoning progressive ideals after the party doctrine was revised.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)