Park rounds up her supporters to construct inner circle

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Park rounds up her supporters to construct inner circle

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Two long-time aides of Park Geun-hye are always mentioned whenever the power elites surrounding the president-elect are discussed.

Representative Choi Kyung-hwan and former lawmaker Kim Moo-sung are at the center of Park’s inner circle.

When Park started her primary campaign to win the Saenuri Party nomination in July, Choi was the chief manager who started the planning.

Starting with renting the office, Choi oversaw every little detail of Park’s primary campaign and successfully helped Park win nomination in August.

But when the actual presidential campaign took off, demands grew from inside the ruling party that the campaign needed a complete overhaul.

Around October, Park’s rating slid quickly as she faced a series of sensitive issues concerning her father Park Chung Hee’s controversial legacy and her perception of it. Internal discord among her strategists also flared.

Choi, then, stepped down from his post as chief campaigner, asking the public to hold him responsible for everything. After Choi resigned, Kim stepped in to stop Park’s campaign from melting down.

The 61-year-old former lawmaker from Busan supported Park for a long time.

He oversaw her campaign during the presidential primary in 2007, which Park lost to President Lee Myung-bak.

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Although the Kim-Park relationship withered when Kim challenged Park’s decision in 2009 to support the relocation of the majority of government offices to Sejong City, they quickly restored their tie after Kim accepted the decision of the party, under Park’s leadership, to deny him a nomination in last April’s general election.

He stayed with the party and supported the other candidates, helping to prevent an exodus of disgruntled politicians who, like him, were denied nominations.

As the “control tower,” Kim slept on a cot in an office of the party’s headquarters and oversaw Park’s campaign around the clock.

Park loyalists Yoo Jeong-bok, Hong Moon-jong, Suh Byung-soo, Lee Ju-young, Yoon Sang-hyun, Lee Hag-jae, Lee Sang-il, Kwon Young-se and Lee Jung-hyun also played crucial supporting roles in her campaign.

Saenuri Chairman Hwang Woo-yea and floor leader Lee Hahn-koo were also credited for supporting her campaign steadily.

Park’s public affairs team, including Ahn Hyoung-hwan, Cho Hae-jin, Park Sun-kyu and Chung Ok-nim, effectively protected her against mudslinging.

Kim Chong-in, the architect of Park’s economic democratization vision, and Ahn Dae-hee, former veteran prosecutor who led Park’s political reform agendas, were the strategists whom Park recruited from outside the party to boost her campaign.

Park also recruited Han Gwang-ok, who served as the presidential chief of staff in the Kim Dae-jung Blue House, to promote her “grand national unity” campaign.

She also maintained relationships with experts for her policy-making. Representatives An Chong-bum and Kang Seog-hoon of the Saenuri Party polished Park’s policies and messages before she made her pledges public.

After Park made announcements, they provided detailed explanations about her policies to the press on behalf of her.

Kim Kwang-doo, honorary professor of Sogang University, is also known as the key economic policy brain in the Park campaign.

Kim is a member of Park’s think tank, National Future Research Institute, along with Yonsei University Professor Kim Young-se and Sookmyung Women’s University Professor Shin Se-don.

Park also maintained her tie with the so-called Sogang school - a group of academics from Park’s alma mater Sogang University who led economic development policies under the Park Chung Hee regime.

Kim is a representative member of the group along with former prime minister Nam Duck-woo and professors Kim In-kie and Hong Ky-tack of ChungAng University.

Yun Byung-se, who previously served as the senior foreign and security affairs secretary at the Roh Moo-hyun Blue House, was Park’s foreign policy advisor, and Representative Kil Jeong-woo also assisted in devising Park’s foreign policy pledges.

Former Defense Minister Kim Jang-soo also advised Park on North Korea and defense issues.

In comparison to President Lee Myung-bak, known for his long, successful experience as a CEO, Park’s ties with the business community are relatively weak.

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

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