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Parties gear up to choose new floor leaders

Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon (Yonhap)
Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon (Yonhap)

South Korea’s ruling and main opposition parties are set to elect new floor leaders this week, individuals who will play vital roles in the country’s newly elected National Assembly.

As soon as they take the helm, the new floor leaders are expected to convene the last plenary session for the outgoing Assembly and prepare to deliberate on a third supplementary budget, drawn up with the aim of minimizing the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The main opposition United Future Party’s three-term Kim Tae-heum announced his candidacy for the floor leader position Sunday to compete against four-term lawmaker Lee Myoung-su. The party will pick its floor leader on Friday.

Rep. Kim stressed the need for structural reform, saying the party should recruit young politicians and strengthen its foothold online.

“What we need right now is a pioneer who discovers new ways, not a manager,” he said during a press conference, adding that the party is facing the worst crisis of right-wing group in history.

Sharing his personal view, Kim said the United Future Party and its the proportional satellite group Future Korea Party should merge as affiliated political groups were created to exploit the new parliamentary election formula.

It secured 19 proportional representative seats via Future Korea Party.

After a crushing defeat in the April 15 parliamentary elections, the conservative party is seeking to regain voter confidence.

But its plans to establish new leadership were left in tatters when veteran politician Kim Chong-in turned down the party’s offer to head its interim leadership committee for about four months, until the next national convention.

Some 84 lawmakers of the United Future Party, who won constituency seats, are expected to cast their votes on Friday.

Three lawmakers announced their candidacy for the floor leader position in the ruling Democratic Party, which won 180 of the 300 seats in the National Assembly in general elections last month.

The election for a new Democratic Party floor leader will take place Thursday.

The candidates include Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, part of party Chairman Lee Hae-chan’s inner circle; Rep. Jeon Hae-cheol, an ally of President Moon Jae-in; and Rep. Jung Sung-ho, who does not belong to a specific faction but who has called for pragmatic leadership.

The new floor leader will face the task of backing up the liberal government in its fourth year in close communication with Cheong Wa Dae and the government, while seeking ways to counter the negative impact of COVID-19 on the country’s exports, manufacturing activities and domestic spending.

The votes of the party’s 68 first-term lawmakers-elect are expected to be a decisive factor, as the new legislators are relatively free from factional ties.

The 21st National Assembly will open May 30.