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[Newsmaker] New NPAD key man vows ‘zero-tolerance’

The new chairman of the main opposition party’s reform panel vowed on Wednesday to overhaul the beleaguered party, urging its members to abandon their factional interest and rebuild the party for the next general election.

Kim Sang-kon, the former chief of Gyeonggi Provincial Education Office, pledged “zero-tolerance” against any attempts to build factions within the New Politics Alliance for Democracy. The party has been beset by factional feuds since its crushing defeats in the April by-elections.

“From this moment on, there are no such things as factions and interests,” said Kim. “I strongly demand the party members stop holding factional meetings. The panel will not tolerate any attempts to sabotage our reform drive,” said Kim. 

Kim Sang-kon. (Yonhap)
Kim Sang-kon. (Yonhap)

NPAD leader Moon Jae-in showed his support by echoing Kim’s remarks at Wednesday’s supreme council meeting. He said Kim would successfully spearhead the party’s overhaul the same way as he had done while serving as education chief.

Kim was elected as a superintendent of Gyeonggi Provincial Education Office in 2009. He was thrown into limelight as he defied then-president Lee Myung-bak’s conservative education policy and won the election. It was the first direct vote by residents in Gyeonggi Province.

Kim, a strong advocate of liberal education policy, implemented free meal policy for all students, irrespective of their family’s income level. The policy caused a stir among conservative policymakers.

A labor expert and a former university professor, he also focused on preparing policies to improve students’ rights. During his tenure, he laid out a so-called “student human right ordinance” to ban corporal punishments and hair length limitation.

NPAD floor leader Rep. Lee Chong-gul gave credit to Kim’s leadership when he reportedly first proposed the post to him. He said on Friday Kim enjoyed wide support across the region and had strong commitment to reform.

After being reelected in 2010 for Gyeonggi Province superintendent, Kim became an NPAD member. He resigned from the post in 2014 to run for the governorship of Gyeonggi Province but failed as he lost party nomination.

Experts said that Kim would serve his post better even though he is not an elected lawmaker. “The fact that Kim is not a lawmaker will help him in the long term,” said Chung Hae-gu, political professor at Sungkonghoe University.

“NPAD members should not sabotage Kim’s leadership. If they keep questioning whether he is the right one, the reform will fizzle out as it had done before several times,” Chung said.

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