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GNP swamped with calls for reform

The ruling Grand National Party was facing internal strife as junior lawmakers pushed on with their bold reform plans.

Party leader Ahn Sang-soo, together with Supreme Council members, stepped down on Sunday, taking responsibility for the party’s defeat in last month’s by-elections and giving way to an emergency committee.

However, disagreements occurred over the leadership and composition of the committee.

The panel officially kicked off on Monday, based on a plan submitted by Ahn, upon his resignation Sunday.

Rep. Chung Ui-hwa is to lead the 13-member panel. The party floor leader and the policy committee chairman are to be included as extra-quota members.

The junior group contended, however, that newly-elected floor leader Hwang Woo-yea should take over the party leadership, instead of the designated chairman Chung.

“The panel is mainly composed of pro-Lee members, still reflecting the factional conflicts,” said Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, a representative member of the reform group.

“The panel should be organized and approved by the newly elected floor leader and policy committee chairman, not upon the discretion of former leader Ahn.”

Floor leader Hwang spoke likewise.

“In accordance with the party constitution, the floor leader is to be the acting party leader,” Hwang said.

“This is also the most effective way to fill up vacancies caused by the mass resignation of the Supreme Council.”

By this, the floor leader implied that he, together with the Supreme Council members, should replace Ahn and take charge of the party’s management duties, until a new leader is selected.

“The panel, aside from preparing the national party convention next month, is also to bring reforms into the party,” Hwang also said, hinting that temporary leadership should be given to him and other reform-minded lawmakers.

Former leader Ahn, new floor leader Hwang and panel chairman Chung met in a closed-door meeting on Monday to discuss the issue. They will meet on Wednesday again to finalize the details of the emergency panel, according to officials.

Hwang was elected as new floor leader on Friday.

By beating his prominent competitors, both considered pro-Lee Myung-bak members, he represented the party’s efforts to break away from factional feuds and win back the public’s trust.

Hwang, a fourth-term lawmaker and former judge, is known for his non-factional political stance and legal insight, and his rise bestowed power on a group of junior and reformative lawmakers within the party.

“The pro-Lee group has long monopolized major party affairs, thus losing contact with minority opinions within the party or with the public,” said Rep. Kim Sung-tae, leader of the reformative junior lawmakers.

While the GNP faced calls for reforms, the main opposition Democratic Party also strove to refocus, after it was hit by in-party divisions over the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement bill last week.

“Our party should keep watch so as not to lag behind amid the ongoing changes,” said leader Sohn Hak-kyu on Monday.

“Unity and innovation shall be our main keywords.”

By Bae Hyun-jung (