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PM confirmation hearing on May 24-25

Parties reorganize after election; Ahn to bid again for presidency

Fresh off a presidential election defeat, South Korea’s opposition parties are scrambling to reorganize their grounds, while keeping a close watch on the newly-minted Moon Jae-in administration.

The four parties on Monday agreed with the new ruling Democratic Party of Korea to hold two-day parliamentary confirmation hearings on Moon’s Prime Minster-nominee Lee Nak-yon next week, vowing a thorough scrutiny of Lee’s credentials as the nation’s No. 2.

Prime Minster-nominee Lee Nak-yon (Yonhap)
Prime Minster-nominee Lee Nak-yon (Yonhap)

Ahn Cheol-soo, the People’s Party’s candidate who came in third in last week’s presidential race, revealed his will to run again for the presidency, while his party prepares to elect new leaders. The previous leadership resigned en masse over the disappointing election outcome.

“I will become a person who represents the call of the times and will secure over 50 percent of public support five years later, with or without a presidential run-off,” Ahn, 55, told a group of his campaign advisors over dinner in Seoul on Sunday, asking them not to disperse.

To party leaders on Monday, the venture entrepreneur-turned-politician said his vision of a centrist presidency in the country’s decadeslong conservative-liberal rivalry was worth the effort.

The conservative Liberty Korea Party, which ceded its ruling party position after holding it for a decade, expressed a strong will to become a watchdog for the new administration.

“We wish for the new administration to meet the expectations of the people,” the party’s acting chief and floor leader Rep. Chung Woo-taek said in an emergent meeting Monday.

Its presidential candidate Hong Joon-pyo left for the United States on Friday, but hinted at his desire to take the party chief position. The party’s national convention is scheduled for early July.

Conservative splinter Bareun Party is expected to host its national convention in June. Rep. Yoo Seong-min, who vied for the presidency as its flag-bearer, said he would support the party among the rank-and-file members, without taking any position.

Sim Sang-jeung, presidential candidate from the nation’s progressive minor Justice Party, went back to her position as party chief.

The governing Democratic Party, meanwhile, carried out a major personnel shake-up, appointing third-term lawmaker Lee Choon-suak as secretary-general and another third-term lawmaker Kim Tae-nyeon as policy chief.

Former lawmaker Kim Min-seok became the chief of the party’s think tank, the Institute for Democracy.

“It is a personnel reorganization that we, as a ruling party, carried out to strengthen a healthy partnership among the ruling party, the government and the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, and to help President Moon successfully run state affairs,” a party official said, declining to be named.

First-term lawmaker Back Hye-ryun and former lawmaker Kim Hyun were picked as the party’s new spokespersons.

Also on Monday, Jun Byung-hun, the new liberal president’s chief political aide, made courtesy calls to the parliamentary speaker and floor leaders of all five negotiating blocs.

“I am determined to try hard to play the role of a communication center among the National Assembly, the government and Cheong Wa Dae,” he said during his meeting with Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun.

The five parties also agreed to open the National Assembly’s special session from May 29 and June 27.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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