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Five-term lawmaker chosen to lead main opposition party

The opposition Democratic United Party, on Wednesday selected Moon Hee-sang, a five-term lawmaker and former chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun, to head its interim emergency leadership committee. 

Moon Hee-sang (Yonhap News)
Moon Hee-sang (Yonhap News)

Critics raise doubt as to whether Moon, considered an old-guard figure, can revive the debilitated party in the wake of its double loss in the April parliamentary and December presidential elections last year.

A member of the “pro-Roh” faction within the DUP, Moon will serve until the party formally elects a new chairman at a party convention in May.

Several big-name players of the progressive party who defected last year to join the presidential campaign of the conservative Saenuri Party’s Park Geun-hye, such as Han Gwang-ok, were members of an opposing faction loyal to late President Kim Dae-jung. The two factions have often engaged in bitter infighting over the past 10 years.

“There was a consensus that the person chosen to head the emergency leadership committee should not be someone who is responsible for the loss in the presidential election and should have a pale partisan color,” said DUP Rep. Kim Dong-cheol, who participated in the selection process.

Despite his political association with the deceased president, Moon did not undertake a major role in the presidential campaign of Moon Jae-in ― with whom he bears no relation ― who had also served as presidential chief of staff to Roh.

But Moon’s selection raised several eyebrows as the party failed to present a fresh, new face.

“Whoever is chosen (as interim leader), it would be difficult to be satisfied 100 percent,” said DUP Rep. Joo Seung-yong, who is not affiliated with any particular faction. “But now that a member of the pro-Roh faction has been chosen to head the emergency committee, how things will turn out will be something to watch for.”

Moon, meanwhile, promised in a press conference after his selection that the party would engage in serious self-reflection to recuperate from the electoral defeat.

“(The party) will throw away all vested rights and fiercely reform (itself),” Moon told reporters. “(I) will transform the DUP as if starting from scratch once again.”

By Samuel Songhoon Lee