GOYANG, Gyeonggi Province -- South Korea’s main opposition Liberty Korea Party on Wednesday chose former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn as its chief, alongside new supreme council members to head the party for the next two years, including the upcoming general election and presidential election, the party said Wednesday.
The new leadership is tasked with leading the conservative party in next year’s general elections amid falling support from the public due to controversial comments made by some party members on issues such as the Gwangju Democratic Uprising and the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye.
“Thank you. I have received a crucial order from party members. I will return the support and wishes with new politics and lead the Liberty Korea Party and South Korea to rise again. The Liberty Korea Party is one team,” Hwang said during his acceptance speech at Kintex in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.
Rep. Cho Kyung-tae, lawmaker Kim Gwang-lim, former lawmaker Jung Mi-kyung and contentious Rep. Kim Soon-rye were nominated as new members of the supreme council, while Rep. Shin Bo-ra became the supreme councilor representing the party’s younger generation.
Former Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn poses after being announced the new leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party in Kintex located in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province. (Yonhap)
Hwang was elected to the position with 68,713 votes, or 50 percent backing, followed by former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon with 31.1 percent and Rep. Kim Jin-tae with 18.9 percent.
The party’s leadership had been filled by emergency committee Chairman Kim Byong-joon since Rep. Hong Joon-pyo stepped down last summer after the party’s defeat in the local elections.
Experts say the new party leadership has to work on gaining approval from the general public to reap success in the upcoming general elections, starting with finalizing punishments for Rep. Kim Jin-tae and Rep. Kim Soon-rye whose controversial comments about the Gwangju Democratization Movement have drawn fierce public backlash.
Asked about the punishment for Rep. Kim Soon-rye, who was elected a member of the supreme council, Hwang answered, “The party is in the process of reviewing the case.”
“Hwang has made rather far-right leaning comments in the campaign to obtain support from core voters. But to lead the party to victory in next year’s election backing from the public is vital,” said Shin Yul, a political science professor at Myongji University.
Recent surveys showed a wide gap in the politician preferred by the general public and members of the Liberty Korea Party.
In a two-day survey conducted by the party targeting the general public, 50.2 percent replied in support of Oh, followed by Hwang 37.7 percent and Kim 12.1 percent.
The party also faces a tumultuous road ahead in clarifying its stance on key issues. Differing views between those who insist the impeachment of former President Park was unjust and those who argue that the conservative party should accept the impeachment and work on reshaping the party have opened a fault line within the party.
By Kim Bo-gyung (firstname.lastname@example.org