Saenuri’s leadership fight in July

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Saenuri’s leadership fight in July

With the June 4 local elections behind it, the ruling Saenuri Party is now engaged in an internal battle to elect a new chairman at a party convention on July 14.

Kim Moo-sung, a political heavyweight who represents a district in Busan, declared his bid for the party chairmanship Sunday and is likely to face off with veteran lawmaker Suh Chung-won, a longtime confidant of President Park Geun-hye. Suh is expected to formally declare his bid today.

The election of a new leader for the Saenuri, which has 149 lawmakers in the National Assembly, will have a big impact on relations between the party and the Park Geun-hye Blue House.

Kim, who is not a member of the party’s pro-Park faction, has called for a more robust role for the Saenuri in its dealings with the Blue House, a move that could unnerve presidential officials.

Kim’s stance on changing the status quo in Blue House-Saenuri relations was reflected in his declaration speech on Sunday.

“I will bring about a governing party that will deliver the voices of the people without distortion to the Blue House,” he said. “The party will work as the eyes and ears of the (Park Geun-hye) government.”

There have been complaints within the party that its former leadership led by Hwang Woo-yea was quite passive in following policy instructions from the presidential office. Hwang, a judge-turned-lawmaker, was at the center of those complaints during his two-year tenure as party chairman.

Kim went further to say he was declaring “war on past misdeeds of the Saenuri Party.”

Kim’s strong wording fueled speculation he was referring to Suh Chung-won, a six-term lawmaker who was convicted of taking bribes for a party nomination in 2008 and spent 18 months in jail. People close to Suh expressed disapproval of Kim’s remarks.

“To have a frame that pits the past against the future and defines the past as the accumulation of misdeeds denies the identity of the Saenuri,” said one of Suh’s aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Kim has deviated from loyalists to President Park since he openly objected to Park’s firm support for the special administrative city of Sejong during the Lee Myung-bak government.

Park, then a lawmaker of the Grand National Party, a precursor of the Saenuri, protested former President Lee’s plan to turn Sejong into a special business hub instead of making it the special administrative city, which it finally became.

It’s expected that if Kim clinches the party chairmanship, he will try to use it as a springboard to run in the 2017 presidential election. Known for strong leadership, Kim is presumed to be one of the presidential hopefuls from the governing party.

In the July 14 party convention, the Saenuri will also choose five leadership council members along with the party chairman.


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