Young female activist named DP interim co-chair
Park Ji-hyun, a 26-year-old activist who has worked toward eradicating digital sex crimes, was named as interim co-chair of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) Sunday after its leadership resigned en masse on Thursday following its presidential election loss.
Park, vice chairperson of the DP's women's affairs committee since January, is best known as one of two female university students dubbed "Team Flame" who first helped bring the "Nth room" criminal case to the public in 2019.
The "Nth room" chat rooms on the Telegram instant messaging app were used to sexually exploit and blackmail young women and underage girls and resulted in major public outcry and the creation of the Nth room prevention law to weed out illegally filmed content.
The DP leadership, including Chairman Song Young-gil, resigned after DP presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung narrowly lost to People Power Party's (PPP) Yoon Suk-yeol in Wednesday's presidential election.
The DP said it will operate under an emergency steering committee led by the party's floor leader Yun Ho-jung. It plans to elect a new floor leader by March 25. Park joins Yun as interim co-head of the DP.
In a step to carry out the party's reform goals, Yun said in a press conference Sunday that Park has "fought against unlawfulness and injustice, despite all kinds of threats."
He continued, "Her determination and decisiveness in representing young people is a precious spirit and value much needed by the Democratic Party," adding she will oversee measures against sex crimes and policy on women, young people and the socially disadvantaged.
The DP recruited Park in late January to serve on Lee's campaign team, who revealed her identity to the public for the first time. She was also put in charge of rooting out digital sexual crimes.
Yun said the emergency committee "bears heavy responsibilities, including fundamental changes in the party, fulfillment of promises made with the people and preparation for the local elections."
Yun added that half of the newly appointed emergency committee members are people in their 20s and 30s, as the DP appears to be trying to rejuvenate its image and attract more young swing voters.
The appointments come ahead of the general elections in June.
Despite former Gyeonggi Gov. Lee's loss, exit polls after the March 9 election showed that a large number of young women in their 20s and 30s favored the DP candidate, seen as a backlash to the PPP's policies trying to appeal to the young male demographic. The PPP said in its campaign that it will abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, among other policies aimed at appealing to men in their 20s and 30s turned off by feminism. The move appears to have alienated young female voters.
An exit poll conducted by the three major terrestrial broadcasters Wednesday showed that 58 percent of female voters in their 20s voted for Lee, while 33.8 percent voted for Yoon. In contrast, 58.7 percent of male voters in the age group voted for Yoon, compared to 36.3 percent for Lee.
The DP said it has seen a continued increase of young female members in their 20s and 30s after the election.
Lee on Thursday quickly accepted his election defeat and also wished Yoon success as the next president. He also said he solely will take all responsibility for the election, where he lost by 0.73 percentage points against Yoon.
"I'm sorry, I didn't live up to expectations," he wrote in a Facebook post Friday. "Let's walk together on the road towards a better change."
Some interpreted the remarks as leaving open the possibility of Lee seeking office again in the future. His swift and graceful acknowledgement of defeat has led to analysts predicting that he may take a shot in the next presidential election, as he is still only 57 years old.
The DP said it plans to start over with a humble attitude and that it will continue to push for the political reforms promised during the election.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]