Lee’s pushing of younger pols may sideline rival

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Lee’s pushing of younger pols may sideline rival

Following President Lee Myung-bak’s declaration that the ruling Grand National Party leadership needs a “generational change” to win back young voters, a 53-year-old Lee loyalist declared his bid to run for chairman of the party.

Representative Chung Doo-un said he will help reform the conservative ruling party, which suffered a crushing defeat in the June 2 local elections. After its top officials stepped down, the GNP scheduled a convention next month to elect new leadership.

But Lee’s goal of reshaping the GNP will put him at further loggerheads with rival Park Geun-hye, who at 58 is considered to be of the older generation. Park yesterday reiterated her intention to stay out of the leadership race, and some politicians said “generational change” was simply a way of blocking her from running for president in two years.

On Monday, Lee declared he would replace his secretariat and cabinet with up-and-coming officials, and said the party needs reforms to better communicate with younger voters. His spokesman later said Lee seeks to hire talents in their 40s and early 50s.

“Although I am a Lee loyalist,” Representative Chung said Tuesday, “I have been very vocal about the government’s affairs, perhaps more critical than anyone inside the GNP. I am confident I can lead the party’s reform.”

Chung was the chief strategist for the ruling party campaign during the local elections, and said he admitted to his responsibility for the poor showing. But no one in the GNP can avoid blame, he said. “I want to be judged for my plan of generational change and conservative reform,” he said.

He dismissed the possibility that factional strife between pro-Lee and pro-Park Geun-hye lawmakers will intensify if he becomes the new leader, insisting that he has always valued unity and harmony between the factions.

While some of Park’s loyalists said they wanted the former GNP chairwoman to announce a bid for the head post, Park, 58, rejected the call. Asked if she will run for the party chairmanship, Park said yesterday: “I will not join the race.”

With Park out of the race, young, reformist lawmakers are expected to compete against Chung. Some senior lawmakers such as representatives Ahn Sang-soo and Hong Joon-pyo are still expected to run, but a group of first-term lawmakers are also known to be considering bids.

Kim Tae-ho, 48, the outgoing South Gyeongsang governor, is also expected to return to the party or join the government as his term ends at the end of this month.

The GNP’s new floor leader Kim Moo-sung yesterday backed the president’s call. Kim said the GNP’s convention next month will only attract young voters’ attention if young politicians become prominent. “That is the change that the people want from the GNP and that is the way for the GNP to survive,” he said.

Some, however, questioned the true intention of Lee’s “generational change.” Representative Park Jie-won, floor leader of the Democratic Party, implied yesterday that Lee was trying to block a presidential bid by Park Geun-hye.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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