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Parties elect floor leaders, to meet Moon soon

As part of postelection shake-ups, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea elected a third-term reformist to be its floor leader Tuesday, while the opposition centrist People’s Party welcomed a new chief of its own.

Rep. Woo Won-shik beat out Rep. Hong Young-pyo to take the leadership position in a vote by the party’s lawmakers. In his pledge before voting began, he said he would “put forth everything for the success of President Moon Jae-in and the new liberal administration.”

“The key to success lies in how well the ruling and the opposition parties cooperate,” he said.

Newly elected Floor Leader Rep. Woo Won-shik (center) of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea is surrounded by journalists after a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Newly elected Floor Leader Rep. Woo Won-shik (center) of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea is surrounded by journalists after a party meeting at the National Assembly in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The new floor leader vowed to set up a “100-day committee” to oversee issues related to people‘s livelihoods and attend to the demands of citizens.

He was the chief of the party’s labor rights committee dealing with work-related issues involving temporary workers and social discrimination. Woo led the committee since its establishment in 2013 to 2016.

In a press briefing after his victory Tuesday, Rep. Woo also stressed the need to maintain close ties with the centrist People’s Party.

“There are many policies and election pledges that came from the People’s Party (in the run-up to the election) that we can work on together. The People’s Party fundamentally shares the same root with our party,” said Rep. Woo, echoing President Moon’s words when Moon met with then-party chief Park Jie-won of the People’s Party.

The People’s Party also elected its new floor leader, who is to take on an interim chief role.

Rep. Kim Dong-cheol and Rep. Lee Yong-ho were chosen as the floor leader and policy panel chief, respectively. Their tenures will end in May next year.

The new floor leader garnered victory in a second primary, racing neck and neck against two other candidates, Rep. You Sung-yop and Rep. Kim Kwan-young.

Kim Dong-cheol will help set the direction of the party and lift the gloomy sentiment of the People’s Party after its candidate came in third in this year’s presidential election.

Although Rep. Kim expressed openness to cooperation with the ruling Democratic Party, he also added a barbed remark.

“The ruling party seems to be very excited and is following a show-off trail,” he said after his election. “When we need cooperation, we will cooperate, but the People’s Party will stand firm to watch over the wrongdoings of the government.”

When asked about a possible political alliance with the government, Kim insisted such agreements are to be made between parties. “A political alliance does not refer to recruiting individuals from different parties.”

Attention is on whether he will be able to lead the People’s Party to act as the “casting vote” in the National Assembly, as the ruling Democratic Party holds only 120 seats, less than a majority in the 300-seat parliament. The People’s Party holds 40 seats.

President Moon Jae-in is planning to meet the floor leaders of the four largest political parties Friday, according to a presidential office worker.

Jun Byung-hun, the new president’s chief political aide, will meet the two new floor leaders Wednesday and confirm the meeting with the president.

On the same day, the presidential office named Park Soo-hyun its chief spokesman. A former lawmaker and the spokesman for the ruling Democratic Party, he worked with South Chungcheong Province Gov. Ahn Hee-jung in the party’s primary before the presidential election.

“I believe a good spokesperson is one who listens well. I will hear the words of the parties and journalists and take them as the words of the people,” Park said.

By Jo He-rim (