2 main parties seek new floor leaders

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2 main parties seek new floor leaders

Both the ruling Saenuri Party and opposition Democrats are preparing elections for new floor leaders to take the control of legislative issues during the early stage of the Park Geun-hye administration.

The parties aim to pass about 60 bills at the upcoming parliamentary sessions. So the choice of floor leaders will be key since they will duke out the fate of each bill.

In Korean politics, the role of floor leader is grave, particularly for the ruling party during the early period of a president’s term. A ruling party floor leader has to negotiate many piece of legislation with his or her counterparts in the opposition while communicating with the president on his or her policy goals.

In 2008, during the early stage of the Lee Myung-bak administration, Hong Joon-pyo, a close aide to Lee, was elected floor leader of then-ruling Grand National Party.

The Saenuri Party has two frontrunners: Choi Kyung-hwan, a three-term lawmaker based in North Gyeongsang province and a former knowledge minister of the Lee Myung-bak administration, and Lee Ju-young, a judge-turned-politician and a four-term lawmaker based in South Gyeongsang.

Both are considered “pro-Park,” or loyalists of President Park Geun-hye. Choi is known to be a member of her inner circle, while Lee is seen as a centrist-conservative and has been dubbed “Neo pro-Park.”

Choi is claiming to have the closest relationship with the Blue House and is in favor of watering down or delaying bills on so-called “economic democratization,” a vague campaign pledge by the president that could be used to crack down on big business and start lots of new welfare programs.

Lee is promising a “balanced relationship” with the Blue House and is an active proponent of the economic democratization slogan.

The opposition Democratic Party currently has three aspirants: Jun Byung-hun, a three-term lawmaker and former presidential secretary of the late president Kim Dae-jung; Kim Dong-cheol, a three-term lawmaker based in Gwangju, South Jeolla, and a former presidential secretary of Kim; and Woo Yoon-keun, a three-term lawmaker based in Gwangyang, South Jeolla, and a former deputy floor leader of the Democratic Party.

Jun declared his candidacy yesterday, saying he will “make the DP a strong opposition party with a clear role.”

Jun is seen as a “hard-line liberal,” while Kim and Woo are called “doves,” meaning they’re more centrist in their ideologies.

Still, all three DP candidates are outside of the party’s biggest faction, which are loyalists of former Roh Moo-hyun.

Since the DP lost the presidential election last year, the pro-Roh faction has been blamed and it is now out in the cold in party matters. None of its members were elected to the Supreme Council at a convention on Saturday.

The DP has also recently revised its party doctrine, making it more centrist and less leftist. In regard to a drive for “economic democratization” - a vague goal pursued by both the ruling Saenuri Party and the DP - they added the phrases, “We support and respect the rightful and creative business management of the corporation” and “have interest in the human rights of North Korean people.”

In the past, the DP has been accused of being rabidly anti-business and so pro-North Korea that it wouldn’t criticize Pyongyang’s human rights record.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]
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