Saenuri names new interim leader

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Saenuri names new interim leader

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Saenuri Party members make a pledge of allegiance at the party’s committee meeting Thursday at the National Assembly, during which they officially named Kim Hee-ok its interim leader. [NEWSIS]

The Saenuri Party named former anti-corruption chief Kim Hee-ok its interim leader on Thursday, forming the so-called innovative emergency committee to steer the party.

Kim, a former Constitutional Court judge who also oversaw the Government Public Ethics Committee, will maintain his position at the helm of the party until it holds a national convention to elect new leadership.

“We are facing a situation in which we need to change everything but the party’s name,” said a somber-looking Kim upon his appointment.

“I will propose and execute any procedure that will help the party’s renovation,” continued the new interim leader, who said he would strive to restore the public’s trust in Saenuri, which now commands the loyalty of 122 lawmakers, one short of the number held by the Minjoo Party. This marks the first time in 16 years that the president’s party has been outnumbered by another party in the National Assembly.

There are five party lawmakers who joined the innovative emergency committee to be headed by Kim Hee-ok: Saenuri floor leader Chung Jin-suk, Secretary General Hong Moon-pyo, Chief Policymaker Kim Gwang-lim, three-term lawmakers Kim Young-woo and Lee Hag-jae.

Lee Hag-jae, a President Park Geun-hye loyalist, and Kim Young-woo, who is not a Park loyalist, both joined the committee. The two are seen as moderates capable of reaching across the aisle.

Three university professors, one former vice minister of the agricultural ministry and a renowned lawyer, Lim Yoon-sun, also joined the innovative emergency committee as outside experts.

The appointment of the 67-year-old former prosecutor came after a month-long internal dispute between loyalists to President Park and non-loyalists. The internal brawl continued despite an embarrassing defeat in the April 13 general election, whose outcome was seen as evidence that the public is fed up with the governing camp and its bickering.

While Kim pledged to support a thorough reform to overhaul the party and bring an end to the infighting, it remains to be seen how effective he will be in realizing such a promise, given his lack of experience in the political arena and scarcity of party followers.

A list of names placed on the emergency committee roster raised speculation that Saenuri has chosen stability over far-reaching reform for the next couple of months until the party convention, which has yet to be scheduled but is expected to take place in late July or August.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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