Saenuri Party chairmanship race goes to the vote

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jul 14, 2014 - 12:51
  • Updated : Jul 14, 2014 - 16:02

The ruling Saenuri Party’s chairmanship race is to be put to a vote Monday with heavyweights Reps. Kim Moo-sung and Suh Chung-won in the lead.

The winner will lead the conservative party for the next two years, while four runners up will take places on the party’s supreme council.

At the convention, President Park Geun-hye called for harmony within the party, emphasizing the ruling party’s role in realizing her plans.

“The new leadership is tasked with the important role of working with the government to achieve grand innovation in Korea,” Park said, addressing the party members as “comrades.”

Park went on to call for a united effort in achieving the “new era of hope,” saying that many tasks remained despite the achievements of her administration to date.

Saying that her administration will increase resources directed to economic revival and unification of the two Koreas, including the launch of a preparation committee, Park called on Saenuri Party members to rally around the new leaders to support the national reform. 

Saenuri Party Reps. Kim Moo-sung (left) and Suh Chung-won attend the press conference held in Yeouido, Seoul, on Sunday. (Yonhap)

The election outcome is expected to bring significant changes to the ruling party and its relationship with Cheong Wa Dae.

Kim has promised to establish a relationship of “healthy tension” with Cheong Wa Dae and said that he would speak out against the administration when necessary. Suh, on the other hand, has emphasized the need to give the president the party’s fullest support.

In addition to the differences in their plans, Suh is a key ally of the president, while Kim has long been considered a potential presidential contender capable of exercising his own brand of politics.

While Kim is seen to be leading the race, Park attending the party convention has come as an unexpected variable, touching off mixed reactions.

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy attacked the move, calling it “foul play” that could affect the pivotal by-elections on July 30. 

“The president attending the party convention with only 16 days left until the July 30 by-elections is highly inappropriate,” NPAD spokesman Rep. Yoo Ki-hong said.

“The NPAD warns that the president attending the Saenuri Party convention after the visit to Gimpo could be a serious foul.”

On Friday, Park visited Gyeonggi Province’s Gimpo, which is one of the 15 constituencies up for grabs in the upcoming by-elections.

Suh, who is considered one of Park’s oldest allies, had welcomed the president’s decision to attend.

“(I) see it as attending the party convention to reaffirm the party and Cheong Wa Dae’s desire for a responsible party chairman who can share the president’s destiny,” Suh’s campaign aides said in a statement Sunday.

“(Suh) will respect the intentions expressed through the president’s attendance and become a selfless chairman who does his duty to the people, the party and the president.”

Others, however, met the news with concern that the president could influence the party members’ vote on Monday.

The gap in the number of votes the winner and the runner-up receive is also to play an important role in determining the dynamics between Kim and Suh over the next two years.

Kim and Suh’s actions in the run-up to the party convention have raised concerns that the two might likely continue to jostle to gain the upper hand.

The concerns led to first-term lawmaker Rep. Ha Tae-keung suggesting that the runner-up should forfeit his place on the supreme council.

The suggestion, however, was rejected and the two have since declared that they would fully cooperate with each other regardless of the outcome in a gesture to ease such concerns.

By Choi He-suk (