The main opposition’s interim chief Rep. Park Young-sun on Tuesday said she hoped to finalize the roster of the party’s top decision-making committee by Aug. 20, before initiating major in-house reforms later this month.
Main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy officials agreed to form an emergency committee and named Park its chief at a party caucus on Monday. The committee will be the party’s executive branch until early next year.
Political analysts expect Park to kick-start a series of in-house reforms in the wake of a crushing defeat in the July 30 parliamentary by-elections.
The conservative ruling Saenuri Party won in 11 of the 15 contested seats in last week’s polls. It now holds 158 of the National Assembly’s 300 seats.
The NPAD struggled in the same polls, even losing one voting district in South Jeolla Province ― a traditionally staunchly anti-conservative region ― to the Saenuri Party.
Critical voices calling for a major overhaul of the NPAD have since grown, and Park said Tuesday that she will answer those calls by “returning to basics.”
“We must outgrow our image as a ‘fighting’ party. We must step into the daily lives of ordinary citizens by pushing through with welfare legislation, and leveling the economic playing field,” she said.
Park also vowed to introduce open primaries to the NPAD when nominating candidates for major elections. Former NPAD cochairmen Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Han-gil were heavily criticized in the July by-elections for “unilaterally” nominating key aides to run in important districts.
Park hinted that other specific reform plans will be announced later after picking the members of the emergency committee.
“Outside members are possible candidates (for the emergency committee),” Park said. “I will also select one first-term lawmaker as a member.”
Park became the de facto NPAD chair last week after the former chairs stepped down following the crushing by-elections defeat.
Park currently enjoys a high endorsement rating within the NPAD, but her attempts to reform the main opposition party will be a challenge, experts say.
Longstanding factionalism within the NPAD is expected to impede efforts to reform the party. Tension exists between younger and older-generation NPAD lawmakers who began their political careers as student activists in the 1980s. Speculation that senior NPAD officials could be territorial and resist party reforms have surfaced.
Park’s personal traits could also impede her own initiatives. Critics say the three-term lawmaker is a hardliner comparable to President Park Geun-hye.
“Both figures have a tough time understanding the other side,” an op-ed in a local daily said on Monday.
Rep. Park Young-sun is the second-ever female party leader in South Korean political history. President Park Geun-hye was the first, when she served as the chairwoman of the Grand National Party from 2004 to 2006. The GNP was the forerunner to the Saenuri Party.
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)