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New key man to spur NPAD reform

The main opposition party on Sunday named the chair of a committee that will drive reforms to end factional feuds and rebuild the party ahead of next year’s general election.

The New Politics Alliance for Democracy said Sunday that Kim Sang-kon, the former chief of Gyeonggi Provincial Education Office, would chair the “innovation committee,” a reform body to overhaul the party, which has been beset by factional confrontations since its defeat in the April by-elections.

Kim, 63, will exercise full authority to lead the reforms, party officials said. He will organize panels on the reform committee and oversee the process of nominating candidates for the next general election. Both were seen as thorny issues that would likely worsen infighting.

“I agree with some people saying my position will be a poisoned chalice,” said Kim on Sunday during his acceptance speech. “But somebody should step up and do the job. I gave the proposal a lot of thought and finally decided to accept it.”

The NPAD leader Rep. Moon Jae-in vowed to give Kim his full support in his task. In an interview after talks with Seoul Mayor Park Woon-soon late Sunday afternoon, he told reporters that the party agreed to grant Kim “virtually” unfettered discretion on party reform.

Moon also urged him to end factional infighting and create a fair nomination process for the next general election. Moon has been accused by nonmainstream party members of inciting factional feuds and failing to address conflicts during the nomination process for the April by-elections.

Kim accepted the chairmanship a week after the party announced a plan to launch the reform committee. The chair has been left vacant since Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, the former cochair of the NPAD, rejected the post.

Among other candidates, Seoul National University professor Cho guk was discussed as an alternative to Ahn. However, NPAD floor leader Rep. Lee Jong-kul raised objections and instead proposed Kim, saying the committee chair should have ties to the party. Kim is a party member.

“He has solid understanding of what is going on inside the party,” said Lee on Friday. “Besides, he has enjoyed wide support across different regions and built extensive networks while serving as a university professor. That is why (I) offered him the post.”

Kim, a former university professor and a prominent labor expert, was elected as Gyeonggi education superintendent in 2010 and served until 2014. He advocated for a liberal school system and free meals for all students, irrespective of how well-off they were, defying former President Lee Myung-bak’s conservative education policy.

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