Lee Hahn-koo, right, the newly elected floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party, raises his hands with Rep. Chin Young, the conservative party’s chief policy maker, at the National Assembly, Wednesday.
/ Korea Times photo by Lee Han-gu
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, an economist-turned-lawmaker, was elected as new floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party Wednesday. Rep. Chin Young, a third-term lawmaker, will become chief policymaker of the conservative party as the Lee-Chin pair wins the competition.
Lee and Chin are close to Park Geun-hye, an unrivaled presidential hopeful currently enjoying the highest ratings in polls in the ruling camp.
Due to the bond with the Park, their victory is likely to pave way for her primary campaign to select a presidential candidate to run in the December race on the Saenuri Party ticket.
After being elected as floor leader, Lee, 67, told reporters he would put harmony and unity first as the conservative party has undergone a severe rift between aides of President Lee Myung-bak and Park’s confidants.
“From now on, there will be no such labeling as followers of President Lee or Park in the ruling party. Such terms will no longer exist here,” the veteran politician said. “Rep. Chin and I are also close to President Lee’s aides. Both of us have never had any problems with them.”
His remarks were construed as meaning that unity of the majority party is necessary to win the presidential election slated for December.
The lawmaker said he would treat opposition parties, including the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP), as partners, not rivals or enemies.
But he made it clear that he would stand firm against any moves that can put “constitutional order” in jeopardy, hinting inter-party relations could face a rough road. Lee’s counterpart of the main opposition party is Park Jie-won, a hardliner who has vowed to fight against the ruling party.
Lee is known as Park’s economic tutor as he has advised her on such policies to sharpen her understanding. Before joining politics in 2000, he worked with a private think tank as a senior economist.
Chin is a close aide of Park Geun-hye, having served as a chief of staff when she led the then Grand National Party (later the Saenuri Party) as chairwoman.
On Tuesday, Park paid a visit to Chin’s electoral district of Yongsan, Seoul for community activities. Her high-profile visit there, despite a super busy schedule, stirred speculation that the ruling party leader might be trying to send the message that she endorsed Chin as a new policymaker to indirectly influence the competition results.
The Saenuri Party is scheduled to select a new chairperson and several Supreme Council members at its national convention slated for June. Nine candidates, including Hwang Woo-yea, are joining the leadership race. Once the new lineup is completed next month, the ruling party will hold a primary to select its presidential candidate during the summer.