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GNP’s Hong may stay leader, despite dissent

The ruling Grand National Party is expected to keep its leadership, despite heated arguments during the party’s renewal forum Tuesday.

Chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo urged the party to focus on policy reforms and unity ahead of next year’s elections, but reform-inclined members blasted him for dismissing the possibility of resignation.

The pro-Park Geun-hye group remained cautious. If Hong steps down it could bring the former chairwoman back to her post, regardless of her presidential plans.

“We are in the midst of a serious crisis and can no longer afford internal feuds,” said Rep. Hong in a party meeting Wednesday.

He took the results of Tuesday’s forum as a tacit vote of confidence in his leadership.

Hong had offered to hand the post to Rep. Park, but the majority expressed concerns over such a drastic upheaval.

“Our lawmakers agreed that the best solution to the current situation is for the current leadership to speed up the ongoing reform plans and ensure they are realized,” said Rep. Kim Chung-kwon, the party’s secretary-general.

Hong’s optimism was met with a firm backlash.

“The party shall see no advancements unless it sees the big picture and makes certain sacrifices,” said Rep. Won Hee-ryong, who led the leadership reshuffle talk.

He also accused the chairman of deceiving people with an insincere resignation offer.

Rep. Nam Kyung-pil, another reformer, summoned a special Supreme Council session to cast a vote of confidence on Hong.

Rep. Chung Doo-un, also criticized the former chairwoman, who remained low-key throughout the discussions.

“Rep. Park should know that she may no longer just play it safe,” Chung said, urging her to take full responsibility and lead the party into the general election.

Such calls for personnel changes were largely triggered by concerns that next year’s election results may be unfavorable for the ruling party, especially after several election defeats and a loss of public support.

However, Rep. Park, with her larger stake in the presidential race, has so far refrained from commenting on the party’s chairmanship.

She is seen as approving of Hong’s leadership and has repeatedly claimed that the party should focus more on policy reforms than personnel reshuffles.

“It is inappropriate for Rep. Park to fight within the party’s boundaries, while her liberal potential rival, professor Ahn Cheol-soo, is expanding his influence in the political arena,” Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, Park’s close aide, told reporters after Tuesday’s forum.

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