Rep. Kim says he will brave a path toward chairmanship

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Rep. Kim says he will brave a path toward chairmanship

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Kim Yong-tae

Rep. Kim Yong-tae, a young reformist of the Saenuri Party, declared Monday his intention to run in the upcoming chairmanship race, following the recent move by the president’s loyalists to push him out of an in-house panel to reinvent the ruling party.

“There’s only one way for the Saenuri Party to win the next presidential election: reform,” Kim said. “Despite my considerably young age of 48, I will dare to become the chairman of the ruling party and walk this path.”

Stressing that the party does not belong to anyone or any faction, the three-term lawmaker made a pledge, if he becomes chairman, he will start a presidential primary early next year to begin grooming a formidable candidate. He also vowed to utterly revise the nomination process within six months of taking the office.

Kim also said he will reshape the hierarchy between the party and the Blue House. “I will make it a mutually cooperative, horizontal relationship,” he said.

After a crushing defeat in the April general election, Kim was selected to head the party’s reform initiative. Park loyalists, however, boycotted the party meetings, which were scheduled to endorse his appointment in May. Since then, the party has been headed by an outsider, acting Chairman Kim Hee-ok. The new chairman will be elected on Aug. 9.

Kim was the first candidate to declare his bid for the chairmanship, despite there being only about 40 days left before the race. Rep. Choung Byoung-gug, a fifth-term lawmaker and a Park adversary, is considered a strong contender but has not made a public bid. Asked if he will try to consolidate candidacy with Choung, Kim said, “I had a serious conversation with Choung a while ago.”

Although none of the Park loyalists have made public bids, Reps. Lee Ju-young, Lee Jung-hyun and Hong Moon-jong are considered contenders from the Park faction. It remains to be seen if Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan, former deputy prime minister for economy, will run or not.

Meanwhile, the Saenuri Party appointed Rep. Park Myung-jae as the new secretary general on Monday. Rep. Kweon Seong-dong resigned from the post last week in the aftermath of the latest factional conflict over the homecoming of former party members, including one of the president’s high-profile opponents.

“I want to make it clear that I am neutral,” Park said after his appointment. “I will take care of all party affairs from a neutral and objective perspective.”

The two-term lawmaker also said lawmakers may have different opinions, but they are not matters of right and wrong. Rep. Kim Tae-heum, deputy secretary general and a key Park loyalist, also resigned Monday to end the leadership’s factional strife. When Kweon stepped down, he demanded Kim’s replacement in order to remove both Park loyalists and Park adversaries from the leadership.

“If there are concerns that the fairness of the chairmanship election would be hindered because I am keeping my post, I will step down for the sake of the party,” he said.

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

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