Struggling Bareunmirae Party elects new leader

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Struggling Bareunmirae Party elects new leader


Sohn Hak-kyu

The Bareunmirae Party, the third largest in the legislature, elected Sohn Hak-kyu, a former governor and lawmaker, as its new leader on Sunday.

Sohn, 71, beat five other candidates at the national convention of the center-right opposition party. In his victory speech, Sohn vowed to achieve political reform and unite the party.

A former four-term lawmaker, Sohn served as chairman of the current ruling party, the Democratic Party, from 2010 to 2011, when it was the main opposition party. He was the governor of Gyeonggi from 2002 to 2006, when he was affiliated with the conservative Grand National Party, the predecessor of the current main opposition Liberty Korea Party.

When he announced his bid for Bareunmirae leadership last month, Sohn said he would devote himself to making the party a central figure in reforming Korean politics.

Sunday’s election came after two co-leaders resigned in response to the party’s crushing defeat in local elections on June 13. The Bareunmirae Party won none of the 17 biggest mayoral and gubernatorial races, nor did it win any of the 12 National Assembly seats that were up for grabs.

The party currently holds 30 out of 299 seats in the National Assembly.

Ahn Cheol-soo, one of the party’s founders, decided to take a break from politics after he finished third in the Seoul mayoral race in June.

The Bareunmirae Party formed in February through a merger between two centrist parties. At the time, it was seen as a bold experiment in Korean politics long dominated by regional and ideological divisions.

But voters’ support for Ahn and his party waned over apparent disappointment in the party’s failure to deliver a new vision for Korean politics.

Sohn joins a host of political stalwarts re-entering the national stage, which some critics have derisively called the return of the “old boys.”

In August, the Democratic Party elected a seven-term lawmaker, 66-year-old Lee Hae-chan, as its leader. The Party for Democracy and Peace, a small left-leaning opposition party, picked four-term lawmaker Chung Dong-young, 65, to be its chairman.

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