Hwang Woo-yea elected new ruling party leader
The ruling Saenuri Party on Tuesday elected a five-term judge-turned-lawmaker, Hwang Woo-yea, as its new chairman, as the conservative party is gearing up for December's presidential polls after an unexpected victory in April's general elections.
In the party's national convention held at the KINTEX convention center, northwest of Seoul, the 65-year-old Hwang defeated eight other candidates to win the party's top post, Saenuri's election commission announced.
Hwang, known for his close ties with outgoing leader Park Geun-hye, the party's leading presidential contender, entered into politics in 1996 as a proportional representation lawmaker and has since been elected four more times from his constituency in Incheon, west of Seoul.
Hwang had served as the ruling party's floor leader until recently since May last year.
Before joining politics, Hwang had served as a judge at major courts in Seoul and other parts of the country.
On May 9, the Saenuri Party elected Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, another veteran lawmaker close to Park, as its new floor leader in a move expected to bolster her grip on the party seven months before December's presidential election.
Among a total of nine candidates, four runners-up -- Reps. Lee Hye-hoon, Shim Jae-chul, Chung Woo-taik and Yoo Ki-june -- were chosen to serve in the party's Supreme Council, its top decision-making body.
The conservative party selected its new leaders based on the combined results of voting by party delegates and grass-roots members, and public opinion polls, with weightings of 70 percent and 30 percent, respectively.
Park, daughter of former president Park Chung-hee, has led the party in an interim role since December, and steered it to a surprise win in last month's general elections, giving a morale-boosting bump to her presidential ambitions. She cannot remain the party's chief and run for the top office as the party charter bans presidential contenders from taking the leadership role.
The new leadership will face a key task of managing a party primary to pick the presidential candidate, scheduled for August or September, and to also boost the party's popularity before the vote to select the next leader of South Korea.
When Park took the rein in December, the party was on an emergency footing, rocked by a series of political scandals related to close aides of President Lee Myung-bak.
In her Twitter account on Monday night, Park said, "Tomorrow, I will end my mission as chairperson of the emergency committee."
"When I think about things that happened over the past five months, it reminds me of old memories," Park said.
Last Friday, Park said she has not decided yet when to formally announce her presidential bid. (Yonhap)