Parties’ rebranding efforts flounder

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Parties’ rebranding efforts flounder

The nation’s most prominent political parties have increased their ranks of new recruits ahead of the general election, but their branding and strategizing campaigns have ultimately come under fire for being predictable or poorly vetted.

The main opposition Minjoo Party made the first attempt to bring in fresh political contenders under the initiative of its chairman, Moon Jae-in.

Pyo Chang-won, a renowned criminal psychologist, was announced as the party’s first recruit on Dec. 27, when it was still known as the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD). The NPAD has since changed its name to the Minjoo Party and made more attempts to persuade high-profile professionals to run in the next election.

The Minjoo Party announced on Jan. 6 that Kim Sun-hyun, a professor in the Graduate School of Art Therapy at Cha University, to join the party as its fourth new face - and its first female candidate.

However, Kim promptly left in the wake of criticism involving accusations that she had used the artwork of Korea’s former “comfort women” during an art therapy course without their consent.

Nevertheless, the party continued its recruitment process, and announced Monday that it invited Kim Bin, a 34-year-old female designer, to run in the next general election.

Moon also announced Tuesday that Yang Hyang-ja, a former Samsung Electronics executive, had decided to join the party.

Yang, 48, a South Jeolla native, joined Samsung as an engineering assistant in 1986 after graduating high school. She became managing director in 2014.

Ahn Cheol-soo, a presidential hopeful who left the main opposition party and launched his own party, also started a campaign to recruit fresh faces. His camp is also recruiting lawmakers deemed capable of contributing to the stability of his People’s Party and expanding its influence inside the legislature.

Ahn said Friday that five high-profile figures from Gwangju and the Jeolla region had decided to join in his political experiment. Among them were former Defense Minister Kim Dong-shin, former Agriculture Minister Huh Shin-haeng and former prosecutor Han Sung-cheol.

But all three have been scrutinized over corruption and influence-peddling allegations in their previously-held positions, a concern that spurred an immediate backlash.

Just three hours later, Ahn issued an apology and rescinded their membership.

The Saenuri was the last to announce its recruits on Sunday, when the ruling party introduced six new candidates. The selections, however, were blasted for being hackneyed. Of the six, four are lawyers who often spoke of their conservative standings via conservative media.

Park Sang-heon, a political commentator, also isn’t new to politics. He previously ran and was defeated in the 2008 and 2012 general elections. Similarly, Jeon Hee-gyeong, the secretary general for the Center for Free Enterprise, is also already a member of the Saenuri Party, and her push for the government and the ruling party to restore state control over history textbooks was publicly praised by Chairman Kim Moo-sung.

But despite the Saenuri’s attempts to overhaul its outdated image ahead of the polls, some in the party have expressed concern that those efforts haven’t changed long-held practices.

“Of the six [candidates], four are lawyers,” Saenuri Rep. Lee No-keun said Monday. “We always have this problem of too many lawyers in the party. It’s difficult for them to reflect diversity as well as the changes of the time.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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