Woo Sang-ho calls for restoring trust as he becomes DP interim leader
Woo, a four-term lawmaker, was confirmed as the new chief of the DP's emergency steering committee Friday after being nominated for the position Tuesday. The previous interim leadership stepped down due to the party's defeat in the June 1 local elections.
"A political party that lost cannot restore people's trust by blaming others, lacking humility and just stressing the responsibility of the other faction," Woo said in his first press conference at the National Assembly in Yeouido, western Seoul.
The DP, after its candidate's defeat in the March 9 presidential election and poor showing in the local elections on June 1, has been divided by factionalism and lacking concrete leadership.
On March 10, Song Young-gil resigned as DP chairman to take responsibility after the party's presidential candidate, Lee Jae-myung, was defeated by the People Power Party's (PPP) Yoon Suk-yeol in the presidential election. Rep. Yun Ho-jung, a former floor leader, and Park Ji-hyun, a 26-year-old female activist, were named as co-chairs of the party's emergency steering committee in March.
Park and Yun have clashed over issues such as the handling of sexual misconduct within the party and the need for older politicians to make room for younger politicians. Park has called for the so-called Generation 586 — those over 50 who were born in the 1960s and went to university in the 1980s — to step aside for upcoming DP politicians. Woo, 59, is an example of Generation 586.
In the June 1 local elections, the PPP took 12 of 17 key metropolitan mayor and provincial governor posts. It also won five out of seven National Assembly seats contested in the by-elections.
On June 2, all eight members of the emergency steering committee, including interim co-chairs Yun and Park, apologized in a press conference and stepped down to take responsibility for the election defeat.
DP floor leader Park Hong-geun briefly led the party until Woo was selected as the interim leader.
Woo is expected to helm the DP until the party elects a new chairperson at a national convention in August. Despite being an interim chief, Woo will be tasked with keeping the DP together.
In the press conference Sunday, Woo said that the key to reviving the party is to overcome divisions, restore trust and change attitudes. He acknowledged that the public's expectations for the DP have dropped.
While encouraging more vibrant discussions, Woo called for an end to personal attacks, muckraking and language that provokes factional divide.
He especially warned DP members to refrain from using language dividing those in support of Lee Jae-myung and those not, such as labeling those who are not pro-Lee as traitors to the party.
Lee won a seat representing Incheon's Gyeyang-B district, one of the few election victories for the DP in the recent by-elections. Some members of the DP say that Lee, who lost by 0.73 percentage points to Yoon in the March 9 presidential election, should step up leadership within the party. Others say he needs to take responsibility for the DP's recent election losses. Lee has so far not given concrete answers on whether he plans to run for the party's chairmanship.
Woo also said that the party needs to "have the ability to boldly and strongly keep in check any faults of the government." The DP still holds a majority in the National Assembly with 169 out of 300 parliamentary seats, while the People Power Party (PPP) holds 114.
PPP Chairman Lee Jun-seok also held a press conference on Sunday recounting his past year of leading the conservative party, which has faced its share of factionalism and internal feuding.
He said, "The next one year will be very different from the past one year, which was all about leading election victories as wanted by the people and party members."
BY SARAH KIM [email@example.com]