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Centrist takes Saenuri helm

Kim Moo-sung pledges to build strong party after beating pro-Park rival Suh Chung-won

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Published : 2014-07-14 21:31
Updated : 2014-07-14 21:43

The ruling Saenuri Party on Monday selected Rep. Kim Moo-sung as its new chairman at the party convention in Seoul.

The five-term lawmaker secured a comfortable win over pro-Park Geun-hye heavyweight Rep. Suh Chung-won.

Kim Moo-sung won the election with more than 52,700 votes over Suh’s 38,293 votes.

Suh will now take a seat on the party’s supreme council along with Reps. Kim Tae-ho, Rhee In-je and Kim Eul-dong.

Rep. Kim Eul-dong, the only female lawmaker to run, takes a seat on the council due to party regulations requiring at least one female member even though she failed to come in the top five.

As a result, Rep. Hong Moon-jong was pushed out of the council despite receiving more support than Kim, a two-term lawmaker. In addition to the four elected supreme council members, two more will be named by the new chairman.

“Our party’s objective is clear. Help the Park Geun-hye administration and win the coming general and presidential elections. I will make a strong Saenuri Party,” Kim Moo-sung said. 
Newly elected Saenuri Party chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung (center) poses with new supreme council members Reps. Suh Chung-won (left) and Kim Tae-ho at the party convention at Seoul Sports Complex in eastern Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

“Our Saenuri Party must solve the problems on the street. We have to create jobs for our youth. We have to take care of how people make their livings,” Kim Moo-sung said in his acceptance speech.

“We must show why a ruling party must exist,” he added

Suh, who had engaged in a vehement war of words with Kim Moo-sung, accepted his defeat, saying that he will support the new chairman.

With Kim in charge, the ruling party’s relationship with Cheong Wa Dae is expected to undergo significant changes.

During his campaign, Kim repeatedly emphasized the need for a shift in party-president dynamics, claiming that he would establish a relationship of “healthy tension” with Cheong Wa Dae, while aiding the Park Geun-hye administration’s plans.

In addition, the ruling party’s relations with the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy could also change with Kim at the helm.

According to Chung-Ang University professor Choi Young-jin, the main opposition is likely to favor a ruling party led by Kim, due to his relative independence from the president’s influence.

As for the president, she called for the party to come together under the new leadership emphasizing the ruling party’s role in realizing her plans earlier in the day.

“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 would 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.

Park attending the party convention has come as an unexpected variable, touching off mixed reactions.

The NPAD 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.

By Choi He-suk and Jeong Hunny
(cheesuk@heraldcorp.com) (hj257@heraldcorp.com)

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