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NPAD reform panel struggles to set sail

The main opposition party on Friday officially proposed a former top Gyeonggi Province educator to head the new panel tasked to end factional feuds within the party, after failed attempts to initiate the party reform.

Kim Sang-kon, former chief of Gyeonggi Provincial Education Office, said he would consider the offer, and make a decision by Sunday, according to a party official. Calls have been mounting for the New Politics Alliance for Democracy to undertake party reforms ahead of the general elections next year. The party decided to form a “Panel for Innovation,” but it was struggling to find a suitable figure to lead the committee.

“Chairman Moon Jae-in officially proposed (Kim) to accept the chairman post of the reform committee today,” NPAD spokesperson Kim Sung-soo said. “Kim told him that he needs more time to consider the offer. We believe that he will give the answer no later than Sunday,” he said.

Kim, 65, was elected as Gyeonggi education superintendent in 2010 and served until 2014. Having worked as a university professor and a labor expert, he advocated a liberal school system and free-meal initiative, defying the former President Lee Myung-bak’s conservative education policy.

“I anticipate a positive outcome,” said Rep. Lee Jong-kul, the floor leader of NPAD. “I was told that NPAD chairman Moon Jae-in met Kim last night and shared a common understanding. I think the result will come out by the end of Friday.”

The move came two days after Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo rejected the same proposal. The former cochair of the NPAD said that it would be “inappropriate” for him to assume the post even though he shared the need for the panel.

The rejection has dealt a blow to NPAD’s efforts to regroup itself after the April by-election defeats and the ensuing factional infighting. The party set up the reform panel last week, but they have failed to find the right person to chair it.

Among the likely candidates were Cho Guk, professor at Seoul National University. As a prominent advocate of liberal values, he enjoys popularity among left-wing supporters who often asked him to join politics. He has rejected the offers.

“Kim is much better than me in every sense of the word,” Cho wrote on Twitter. “I have respected Kim for being reform-minded and fair-minded. I sincerely hope he will play a significant role in the party.”

In an interview with a local TV network on Monday, Cho said he would assume the panel chairmanship under the condition that he agreed to the party’ overhaul plan and received corresponding authority to do his job.

But Rep. Lee expressed his objection to Cho on Thursday, saying that a party insider would better serve the chairmanship than an outsider. He asserted that insiders were more knowledgeable about the party’s affairs and could help contribute to the unity.

By Yeo Jun-suk  (jasonyeo@koreaherald.com)
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