Ex-Roh aide vows to enlist Ahn Cheol-soo
Han Myeong-sook, the nation's first female prime minister, waves to her supporters after being elected the chairwoman of the Democratic United Party in its national convention at KINTEX in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province, Sunday. / Yonhap
By Lee Tae-hoon
Han Myeong-sook, the country's first woman prime minister who served under the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, was elected chairwoman of the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) Sunday.
The 67-year-old former activist and leader of a group of Roh followers said she would seek to enlist the backing of software entrepreneur and hot political stock Ahn Cheol-soo, and is expected to lead the opposition through a coalition with other progressive elements in the general election slated for April.
She could possibly play an important role in the lead-up to December’s presidential poll.
On the heels of a court ruling affirming her innocence in a bribery trial, Han garnered 24.5 percent of the votes cast in an internal election that drew a large number of ordinary people.
Coming in second was Moon Sung-keun, an actor and son of the late democracy fighter Rev. Moon Ik-hwan, who gained 16.7 percent of the vote.
“On the strength of 800,000 people who participated in the vote, I will lead a march of victory to apply justice to the Lee Myung-bak administration that has ignored the people’s will,” Han said in her acceptance speech. “We will press for the change and renovation that people are anxious to see and will not allow any vested interests.”
The election drew an electoral body of 792,000 comprised of 643,000 ordinary citizens and 128,000 party members, who were allowed to vote through social networking services, and 21,000 deputies who had to cast their votes at the convention.
Han as party leader is set to face off with Park Geun-hye, a daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee, who is leading an effort to salvage the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) in the April election.
Meanwhile, following Han and Moon in the ballot were Reps. Park Young-sun and Park Jie-won who earned 15.7 and 12 percent of votes, respectively.
The two Parks were leading members of the Democratic Party, the main opposition party that absorbed other opposition groups to form the DUP.
The top six finishers in the ballot will comprise the party’s Supreme Council as its top decision-making body.
Observers also point out that her overwhelming support was partly thanks to the appellate court’s clearing her of charges last Friday that she took illegal political funds from a businessman in 2006.
Han served as the nation’s first female minister for gender equality under the Kim Dae-jung administration but her political fortune flowered as prime minister under the Roh government.
She staged a pitched battle in the 2010 Seoul mayoral election, but lost to incumbent GNP candidate Oh Se-hoon by a thin margin.
In the lead-up to the mayoral election, prosecutors charged her with taking bribes but a lower court cleared her.
Sunday’s national convention was the DUP’s first leadership election since the then Democratic Party merged into a new political group with followers of the late President Roh and formed a political alliance with the Korean Federation of Trade Unions, the dovish umbrella group of unions, in December.
The progressive party has been enjoying higher popularity than the GNP, especially among perspective voters in their 20s through 40s, who are more adept at mobile gadgets.