Hwang elected to head Saenuri
By Chung Min-uck
Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, 65, a five-term lawmaker, was elected new chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party during a national convention held in the KINTEX, Gyeonggi Province, Tuesday.
The judge-turned-politician, together with four newly-elected supreme council members, will lead the party through the crucial presidential election, slated for Dec. 19.
“I will place party integration as the top priority and also carry on with reform measures to keep up with the calls from the people,” said Hwang in his acceptance speech. “I will try my utmost so that the party can retain power in the upcoming presidential elections.”
Observers say the newly-elected leadership will help Rep. Park Geun-hye, daughter of the late President Park Chung-hee, strengthen her position as the party’s foremost presidential candidate, as most of them are reportedly backing her to win.
Altogether nine candidates vied for the top post.
The first four runners-up _ Reps. Lee Hye-hoon, Shim Jae-chul, Yoo Ki-june and lawmaker-elect Chung Woo-taik _ in the contest were appointed as members of the decision-making Supreme Council.
The results were based on the combined voting of party delegates and grass-roots members, and public opinion polls, with weightings of 70 and 30 percent, respectively.
According to party officials, Hwang had huge support from Park’s supporters.
Last week, Lee Hahn-koo, a four-term lawmaker and a close aide of Park, was chosen as new floor leader.
Following the selection, Park will step down as interim leader.
The so-called “election queen” took temporary charge of the party in December and led it to a surprise majority victory in last month’s National Assembly elections.
Park was chosen because the ruling party was suffering from waning popularity due to a series of bribery scandals involving close aides to President Lee Myung-bak and the hacking of the National Election Committee’s website by a party member’s secretary on the election day for the Seoul mayor in October.
“There are seven months left until the presidential election,” said Park during an opening speech of the party’s national convention. “Let’s work together to win the presidency. I, Park Geun-hye will always be there along the way.”
Park has yet to formally announce her presidential bid.
Experts say a feud between Park and other presidential hopefuls is likely to escalate further following the selection of the new leadership dominated by her supporters.
The new leadership will face the key task of managing a party primary to pick its sole presidential candidate, scheduled for August or September, and to boost the party’s popularity before the December vote.