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Opposition chief boycotts post

Kim faces backlash after nominating self

The Minjoo Party of Korea took little time to readjust its proportional representative list Monday, pushing back the prioritized nomination of its chief Kim Chong-in amid escalating criticism by party members and supporters.

News that Kim had placed himself at the No. 2 spot on the list of proportional candidates for next month’s general election sparked a backlash against the party leader, with critics denouncing the move as self-serving and contradicting the ongoing mood for an overhaul of incumbents and senior members.
The Minjoo Party of Korea chairman Kim Chong-in answers reporters‘ questions in front of his residence in Seoul on Monday. Yonhap
The Minjoo Party of Korea chairman Kim Chong-in answers reporters‘ questions in front of his residence in Seoul on Monday. Yonhap
While Kim refused to attend the day’s scheduled party meetings, the party decided to push Kim back to No. 14.

The issue also rekindled the underlying conflict between the high-handed Kim and conventional party members. 

While the majority of the leadership described the “self-nomination” as a selfish and inappropriate abuse of authority, Kim lashed back at what he saw as the party’s persisting factional exclusivism and slandering against him.

“I will not tolerate their insults, the way they make it look as if I had applied for the proportional representative seat for personal greed,” an infuriated Kim told reporters while leaving his home for his private office downtown instead of heading to the party’s headquarters.

“I have no intention of working for a party which treats me in such a (despicable) manner.”

In protest against the growing criticism, Kim refused to show up at the party’s emergency committee and central committee meetings. As interim chief, Kim had the exclusive right to name up to three proportional nominees and it was based on this that he announced his own name.

Under the proportional representation system, which allocates non-regional parliamentary seats to each party depending on its total approval rate, the No. 2 position was sure to guarantee Kim a seat in the 20th National Assembly.

The leadership, however, readjusted his ranking to No. 14, meaning that his spot in the National Assembly depends on the party’s performance in the April general elections.

The system is often used to provide parliamentary status to a party leader or potential presidential candidate ahead of elections, but high-priority numbers are usually allocated to the party’s underdogs.

The mainstream response within the party was that Kim should either step back and yield the position to political rookies or symbolic figures, or at least slide down to a lower number -- both of which Kim refused to accept.

“I do not cling (to power), but in order to pull the party together, it is crucial that I hold a representative seat (after the elections),” he said.

“Why does it matter that I was listed as No. 2 or any other number on the list?”

The interim chief, however, did not offer a detailed explanation as to why he should be listed above other candidates.

“Kim is not the kind of man to refrain from exercising his power,” Cho Kuk, professor at Seoul National University Law School, wrote on his social media account Sunday.

“He was invited in as administrator, but has now positioned himself as an unchallenged monarch.”

In addition, there were other complaints over the rest of the proportional representative list. Among the disputed members were a professor who allegedly plagiarized a paper and a former Air Force chief suspected of influence peddling over his son’s military service.

“The list is totally in discord with our political identity,” said Rep. Kim Hyun-mee, a former top aide to the late President Roh Moo-hyun.

“Where are the socially disadvantaged, agricultural representatives, and all those we are set to speak out for?”

The Minjoo Party’s platform states that youth and labor representatives, as well as those who have worked in disadvantageous regions, should be listed as priority when selecting proportional representation nominees.

Former party leader Rep. Moon Jae-in, who resigned from his post earlier this year to give way to Kim, has refrained from commenting on the issue.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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