DP's interim co-head urges older members to make way for fresh faces
On Tuesday, Park, the 26-year old co-chair of the DP's emergency steering committee, called a sudden press conference, made the apology and asked voters to give the party another chance in the upcoming June 1 local elections.
She admitted the DP "has done a lot of wrong" and bowed her head deeply.
"I know it's shameful, but if you give us another chance in the local elections, I will take responsibility and change the DP," she said, promising major reforms.
The move comes amid recent polls that showed support for the DP was plummeting ahead of next week's local elections. The DP has faced faltering morale after the defeat of its candidate Lee Jae-myung in the March 9 presidential election, which led Song Young-gil to step down as party chief and a joint interim leadership between Yun Ho-jung and Park to be launched.
The DP has also come under fire for continued sexual misconduct allegations against its members. Earlier this month, the party expelled Rep. Park Wan-joo, a third-term lawmaker, who was accused of sexually harassing a female assistant last year. DP leadership issued a public apology and promised to follow a "zero-tolerance" policy in relation to sexual misconduct.
Park's apology Tuesday was not approved by all DP members, including Yun, who kept a distance from the press conference, and is indicative of a growing generational divide within the party.
On the way to work Wednesday morning, Yun told reporters that Park's apology was an "individual opinion." He added, "I'm in a position to represent the party," indicating that the leadership does not have to agree on every press conference.
However, Park in turn told reporters, "It would have been right to apologize together, but he [Yun] expressed a negative opinion," indicating the "timing wasn't right."
In a meeting of the DP election committee later Wednesday, Park called on her party to prepare for the "beautiful exit" of the so-called Generation 586, or those over 50 who were born in the 1960s and went to university in the 1980s.
Park said, "We should discuss the resignation of Generation 586 politicians in order to restore people's trust in the party," in line with her call for major reforms within the DP.
"The mission of Generation 586 was to restore democracy," said Park, adding, "now their remaining role is to pave the way for young people in their 20s and 30s to address current issues and create a young DP."
Park said that youths in their 20s and 30s are the "greatest victims" of the mistakes made by Generation 586 politicians. She said that despite older politicians' promises to step down after the presidential election, only a few, like former Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum and former Oceans Minister Kim Young-choon, have done so.
She added that lawmakers should not be elected beyond four terms.
Park said she had been questioned by some party members why they have to keep apologizing, and said she replied that it was "urgent" to express remorse and ask for another chance "before the people's wrath grows." She noted nothing has changed despite the party's presidential election defeat and called for a joint public apology from party leadership and local heads.
Yun told reporters in response that it was too early for such talk and said, "I think that it is a matter to be discussed after the establishment of the party's discussion body since it's about the party's renewal and future innovation."
Other DP members criticized Park's remarks, saying that she had not properly consulted the party on her promise of major reforms.
Both the DP and Yoon Suk-yeol's conservative People Power Party (PPP) are focusing on campaigning across the country with just seven days left until the local elections and parliamentary by-elections next Wednesday. Early voting begins Friday.
On Wednesday, PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok campaigned in South Chungcheong, while floor leader Kwon Seong-dong headed to North Gyeongsang. The PPP leadership will also be campaigning in Sejong and Daejeon. The DP leadership will focus on campaign activities in Gangwon and Gyeonggi.
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]