Park Young-sun quits, decrying NPAD ‘baggage’

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Park Young-sun quits, decrying NPAD ‘baggage’

Park Young-sun, the floor leader of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), stepped down yesterday, two days after rival parties reached a compromise on the disputed bill to investigate the truth behind the sinking of the ferry Sewol.

“I want to put down my baggage,” she said in a lengthy letter emailed to the 130 fellow lawmakers of her party yesterday morning. “It’s been a difficult time that I have walked through after giving up all of my own beliefs, dignity and pride, tied to the word responsibility.”

Her resignation comes 147 days after she was elected on May 8 as the first female floor leader of any party in the history of Korea, just three weeks after the tragic accident that killed more than 300 in the waters off Jindo, South Jeolla. The former anchor said the toughness of the job was something she anticipated the moment she was elected.

The 54-year-old was taking responsibility for a recent chain of hapless events that have dogged the main opposition party, which was established with a merger in March of the already unpopular Democratic Party and a new political entity led by former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo.

The liberal party was defeated not only in a local election but also in the July 30 by-elections against the ruling Saenuri Party. That failure was instantly followed by the resignation of the two joint leaders, Rep. Ahn and Kim Han-gill, and Park, then-floor leader, assumed the double post as leader of the party’s emergency committee, which was to run the NPAD until next March, when a party convention will take place.

Park quickly emerged as one of the strongest candidates from the opposition for the next presidential election - an idea that faded very quickly.

Her leadership was dealt harsh blows after she agreed on terms of the Sewol probe law with the Saenuri on two different occasions, only to have relatives of the Sewol victims scupper the agreements. She found herself in an even hotter seat in mid-September after she appointed Lee Sang-don, professor emeritus at Chung-Ang University, to co-lead the NPAD emergency committee.

Lee was a member of the ruling Saenuri Party and even worked for its campaigns for both the 2012 general election and the presidential election later that year.

His appointment prompted 30 hawkish opposition policy makers to demand Park step down. Park in turn went into a four-day seclusion and threatened to leave the party.

Although she emerged from seclusion and went back to her duties as interim leader, she did not try to hide her bitterness after the rival parties came to an agreement on Wednesday on the bill for the Sewol probe.

Dubbing it “the saddest bill in the world,” the teary leader deplored on Twitter, “How could it be so hard to wipe away the tears and sorrow of the weak in this land?”

In yesterday’s letter, she displayed her animosity toward hard-liners in her party. People aiming to grab the leadership intentionally stirred inner conflict by making extreme demands, she wrote, and “the pains of the party will hardly be cured.”

The NPAD said it will elect Park’s successor next Thursday to fill the remaining five-month period of her term.


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