Main opposition party chief Rep. Park Young-sun said on Wednesday she would not leave the party, but would step down as interim chief.
Park will also stay on as the New Politics Alliance for Democracy’s floor leader to renew negotiations with the governing Saenuri Party over the special Sewol bill.
Park’s return is expected to enable the main opposition party to resolve the party’s leadership vacuum, and possibly even end the current parliamentary deadlock.
Park’s replacement for interim chair of the main opposition party will be elected in the coming weeks by a council of current and former senior party officials. The council will hold its first meeting on Thursday.
The 27-member council will include former floor leaders Reps. Jun Byung-hun, Park Jie-won, and Won Hye-young. Former chairs Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo, Kim Han-gil, and former Gyeonggi Province Governor Sohn Hak-kyu will also be members of the group.
Park has served as the party’s interim chief and floor leader since August after Ahn and Kim stepped down to take responsibility for the landslide defeats to the ruling party in the July 30 by-elections.
But Park announced plans to resign and even leave the party last week, barely a month into her leadership role. She cited criticism from party members as the main cause of her departure.
Hardliners in the NPAD had insisted Park step down from the party’s top post in the days before Park went into hiding at her home. Not only had she failed to negotiate a breakthrough in talks with the ruling party over the special Sewol bill, but she had also suggested inviting Lee Sang-don to serve as the party’s cochair, they said.
Lee is a moderate conservative and a former senior official of the Grand National Party, the forerunner of the current conservative Saenuri Party.
NPAD hard-liners described Park’s leadership as unilateral, and uncommunicative, resembling that of President Park Geun-hye.
Park’s absence had however caused a sudden leadership vacuum in the NPAD amid a critical parliamentary deadlock.
NPAD lawmakers had been boycotting all legislative affairs, touching off a fury of public criticism as thousands of draft bills were left pending. The parliament’s annual audits of government offices have also been postponed to October.
Ruling party lawmakers and public opinion had been urging the NPAD to return to the parliament. But without a leader, NPAD officials were left to act individually, without any general party directive.
“I offer my sincere apologies,” Park said Wednesday, adding that she would continue the Sewol bill negotiations firmly.
“The current situation has devolved into a very grave one,” she said. “I ask you fellow party members to help our efforts to pass the special bill.”
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org