NATIONAL

Minjoo struggles to retain irate chief

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Mar 22, 2016 - 16:23
  • Updated : Mar 22, 2016 - 18:08
The Minjoo Party of Korea, including its former chairman Rep. Moon Jae-in, pulled out all the stops to dissuade their disgruntled interim chief Kim Chong-in from resigning over proportional representative nomination conflicts.

The sense of crisis -- that a prolonged leadership vacancy would lead to the party’s crushing defeat in the upcoming April 13 general elections -- pushed Moon to break his silence and hurriedly fly to Seoul from Busan for arbitration.

After a tantalizing two-day boycott, Kim reluctantly resumed his post late on Tuesday but still left room for his quitting.

“I will take more time to think over (my position),” spokesperson Kim Sung-soo quoted the elderly Kim as saying in the emergency party meeting.
Former chief Rep. Moon Jae-in arrives at the home of Kim Chong-in in Seoul on Tuesday.
Spokesman Kim added that the interim chief had never actually offered to resign, saying that the urgent tone adopted by the media over the past days has been exaggerated.

“He said that he was insulted by the central committee’s process and manner of selecting proportional representation candidates,” he said.

“As for the detailed ranking of each candidate, he left the decision to the committee so we are currently working (on readjusting the list.)”

The cease-fire meeting took place hours after Moon’s visit to Kim’s residence in central Seoul.

“I asked (Kim) to continue his leadership and achieve opposition victory in the general election,”
The Minjoo Party chairman Kim Chong-in leaves his home to attend a party meeting in Seoul on Tuesday after a daylong boycott.
Moon told reporters after a 50-minute close-door meeting.

But Kim reserved his immediate response.

Kim has been under fire for nominating himself as the party’s No. 2 proportional candidate.

Amid escalating disputes, the leadership readjusted his position to 17 and then back to No. 2 to coax him back to his duty as party chief and election strategist.

Moon, who had handed over his power to Kim in January and has since stayed away from party affairs, advocated his successor’s role.

“Kim selflessly accepted the challenging post as interim chief, only to change the Minjoo Party into a trustworthy opposition party,” he said.

“He finds it offensive that he was pictured as having ulterior motives, despite all he has achieved so far.”

Moon’s offer of an olive branch was considered the party’s last resort to deter Kim from stepping down from his post, with three weeks remaining to the April race and only days left to the candidate registration later this week.

News that the party chief had placed himself at the No. 2 spot on the candidate list triggered doubts on his leadership, but also reignited the conflict between the high-handed Kim and mainstream party members.

The widespread opinion 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.

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.

“I have no intention of working for a party which treats me in such a (despicable) manner,” the enraged Kim told reporters Monday, hinting at his possible resignation.

The party’s leadership had suggested a number of compromising solutions, including one that reallocates Kim to No. 14 in line.

As Kim continued to resist, the party later decided to grant Kim the right to decide his standing, as well as the ranking of three other candidates of his choosing.

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