Primary team launch causes stir
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The leader of the ruling party, a close aide to unrivaled presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye, took the main role in officially launching a committee to oversee primary affairs as scheduled, despite protests from Park’s rivals.
Rep. Hwang Woo-yea, chairman of the Saenuri Party, unveiled the list of 13 members of the task force Monday. Former National Assembly Speaker Kim Soo-han will lead the team. Other members include four lawmakers, civic group leaders and experts.
The team will take care of administrative work necessary to hold the primary, such as setting the date, guidelines for registration and updating lists of delegates and party members eligible to cast votes in the contest. The ruling party is expected to hold the primary in August.
Hwang went ahead with unveiling the task force without consulting with the Supreme Council. He said the ruling party has insufficient time for full deliberation on details of the committee as it has to hold the vote in August.
Hwang plans to appoint one more member shortly as Rep. Shim Jae-chul withdrew his name in a show of protest to the Saenuri Party leader’s unilateral decision making.
The members of the Saenuri Party leadership are all Park loyalists except Shim. The four-term lawmaker has tried to represent the voices of the three minor contenders when the ruling party makes key decisions but his representation is naturally, weak as the sole voice.
Meanwhile, the unveiling of the lineup of the primary committee angered the three minor presidential hopefuls, Reps. Chung Mong-joon, Lee Jae-oh and Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo.
Lee has accused Hwang of trying to curry favor with Park, describing him as “arrogant.” In a radio interview, he urged the ruling party leader to quit as he has failed to manage party affairs in a fair way and instead join the Park campaign staff.
Earlier, Lee and the two other minor contenders demanded that the ruling party leadership change the primary rules to allow only citizens, not party members, to vote in an open primary before launching the committee.
They have threatened to boycott the contest to select a presidential candidate to run in the December presidential election on the Saenuri Party ticket if their request is not accepted.
On Monday, the three sides gave a fresh warning to the party leadership, reiterating they would not take part in the primary if their voices are not heard.
In an interview, Rep. Kim Yong-tae, a spokesman of Governor Kim, said the ruling party leadership “must take responsibility” for the possible malfunction of the primary as they haven’t heeded the minor contenders.