Chief’s ambition agitates Minjoo

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Chief’s ambition agitates Minjoo

Despite its victory in last week’s general election, the Minjoo Party is facing a split over its chief campaigner’s ambition to stay on as leader.

After Kim Chong-in, the interim chairman of the Minjoo Party of Korea, hinted at his intention to continue leading the party until the presidential election, senior members of the party strongly protested his plan, saying that the party must elect a new leadership.

In an exclusive interview with the Monthly JoongAng on Friday, Kim, who successfully headed the Minjoo’s general election campaign, said he has no intention to run in the primary for the chairmanship.

“I am not a longtime member of Minjoo, and I don’t have an organizational power and supporters. For such a person to run in the chairmanship race is nonsense,” he said.

He did, however, hint at his ambition to head the party, if the position is awarded to him without a race. “I have a strong sense of duty to further develop the party’s capabilities to win the presidential election,” he said. “If the party doesn’t want it, then there is nothing I can do.”

Kim, the veteran strategist who designed President Park Geun-hye’s economic campaign in 2012, was recruited by Moon Jae-in, the party’s defeated presidential candidate, to head the Minjoo Party’s general election campaign.

Moon then stepped down from the chairmanship and the party has since been operating under the emergency leadership of Kim.

Kim reiterated his stance in another interview with the Yonhap News Agency on Sunday.

“The next Minjoo chairman must lead the party with great power,” he said. “Otherwise, the party will not work properly.”

He said he has no intention to run in the leadership election, but left himself open to the possibility of heading the party, if its members agree to award him the chairmanship.

As speculations grew that Kim may stay on as Minjoo’s leader, senior politicians openly protested the idea, saying that the party must follow its established process of electing its leaders by convention.

“According to party regulations, a primary is unavoidable once the party convention has begun,” Rep. Kim Young-choon, who scored his third-term last week, said in an interview with TBS radio. “If there are contenders for the chairmanship race, we cannot stop it. That is normal party protocol.”

Kim said the interim leader was recruited and appointed to overcome the crisis, but the people will want normal operations of the party now that it has won the general election.

Rep. Jung Chung-rae, a renowned critic of Kim Chong-in, strongly condemned his ambition.

“Self-awarding the chairmanship is only possible in North Korea’s Workers’ Party,” he said in an interview with CBS radio.

“If he wants to be the party chairman, he must participate in the primary fair and square.”

Jung also played down Kim’s contribution to Minjoo Party’s victory. “We scored overwhelming victories in the capital districts because so many voters in their 20s and 30s cast ballots,” he said.

“We would have won crushing victories even without him.”

Amid the controversy, some politicians declared their bids to run in the chairmanship race.

Kim Jin-pyo and Chung Sye-kyun, as well as Park Young-sun, said they are considering running in the leadership election. Former Incheon mayor Song Yong-gil had also declared his bid.

Former Chairman Moon, who recruited Kim, remained tightlipped about the situation as of Tuesday.

Earlier this month, Moon said he would not intervene in the party’s future leadership, but his opinion is expected to play a crucial role, as he is the presidential frontrunner with the largest number of supporters inside the party.

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

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