Roh loyalists resurface markedly as lawmakers

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Roh loyalists resurface markedly as lawmakers

Loyalists of the late President Roh Moo-hyun have resurfaced as liberals, scoring overwhelming victories in the April 13 general election.

The Minjoo Party won 123 seats in the 300-member legislature, becoming the largest group in the National Assembly. Among the 57 first-time lawmakers-elect of the party, 11 had experience at the Roh Blue House during his 2002-2007 presidency.

Those who are from Busan and South Gyeongsang, the hometowns of Roh and Moon Jae-in, former Minjoo chairman and political companion of the late president, particularly prevailed. Among the eight lawmakers-elect from those regions, four also worked in the Roh Blue House.

Including reelected lawmakers and those who won seats with other political parties, the Roh Blue House produced 21 lawmakers in total for the National Assembly. The number is large enough to form their own negotiation bloc, as the requirement is 20 lawmakers. Among them are Moon Hee-sang, the first chief of staff for Roh who scored a sixth term in April and recently made a bid to become the National Assembly speaker.

Three other Roh aides will start their third terms next week when the National Assembly will start its four-year tenure. Four others succeeded in becoming second-term lawmakers. Two proportional representatives of the People’s Party also served in the Roh Blue House. The former Roh aides were clearly more competitive in the political arena than those who served other presidents. In the April general election, 10 from the Kim Dae-jung Blue House and eight each from the Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak presidential offices were elected.

After Roh won the 2002 presidential election with the strong support of liberals and young voters, his associates and supporters, including many former student activists, quickly gained power. The liberals, however, failed to win the 2007 presidential election, and Roh and his family faced a corruption investigation during the Lee Myung-bak presidency. In 2009, Roh killed himself.

The Roh associates once declared that their faction had ended, but tried to make a grand political comeback when Moon ran in the 2012 presidential race. He, however, was narrowly defeated by President Park Geun-hye. The Minjoo Party tried to reinvent itself as Moon stepped down from the chairmanship and invited a former Saenuri strategist to head the party and April general election campaign. Kim Chong-in eliminated political heavyweights labeled Roh loyalists and former student activists, but the Roh faction still emerged as the new mainstream. And they are now going after the 2017 presidential race. South Chungcheong Gov. Ahn Hee-jung, who headed the political affairs team for Roh’s presidential campaign, said last week he has started “bullpen pitching” for the election.

The Roh associates said they share a link, having served the same president, but they do not practice exclusivity. “It is not a faction led by a leader,” said a key Roh associate. “It is a group that shares the Roh Moo-hyun values. Kim complained why Moon could not control Roh associates. He said so, because he could not understand the true nature of the bonding.”

BY SER MYO-JA, KANG TAE-HWA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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