The Korea Herald


Lee Jae-myung and his aides to steer Democratic Party

Floor leader election results sign of new power dynamics in liberal faction

By Ko Jun-tae

Published : March 25, 2022 - 14:48

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Rep. Park Hong-keun, newly elected floor leader of the Democratic Party, speaks Thursday after winning the internal election. (Joint Press Corps) Rep. Park Hong-keun, newly elected floor leader of the Democratic Party, speaks Thursday after winning the internal election. (Joint Press Corps)
South Korea's liberal Democratic Party of Korea elected a new floor leader Thursday, hinting at a new direction for the party ahead of the local elections in June.

Rep. Park Hong-keun, a three-term lawmaker for the liberal party, was elected as the new floor leader during a general meeting of Democratic Party legislators at the National Assembly. He beat out Rep. Park Kwang-on in a run-off ballot.

The floor leader election was widely touted as a rivalry between forces surrounding former Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung and former Democratic Party Chairman Lee Nak-yon.

Park Hong-keun was widely seen as a member of the Lee Jae-myung circle, as he served as Lee’s chief of staff during the presidential race. Park Kwang-on has largely been touted as a key member of the Lee Nak-yon club.

With the Thursday result, the party has effectively decided to stop its internal feud and get behind the control of Lee Jae-myung and his aides for the local elections.

Many expected Lee Jae-myung to stay in the shadows for at least several months due to his defeat in the presidential race, but the direction has shifted so that he can return to the political scene effectively as the new leader of the Democratic Party.

Some have expected the Thursday result to also shift how nominations will work for the Democratic Party in the local elections, analyzing that many of the key figures in Lee Jae-myung’s presidential campaign will return to spotlight and run for key mayoral and gubernatorial posts.

Lee Nak-yon publicly said after the presidential election he will fly to the United States in June after the local elections, effectively pausing his political career after series of defeats. This bestows greater power to Lee Jae-myung and his aides to maintain leadership in the liberal party.

Rep. Song Young-gil, former chairman of the Democratic Party who served as a key leader for Lee Jae-myung’s presidential campaign team, is seen as a possible pick for the liberal party’s bid for the Seoul mayoral post and fight against Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon of the conservative People Power Party.

Lee Jae-myung himself is likely to contribute to the liberal party’s local elections campaigns and run to serve as the new party chairman in August when the party holds its annual convention. He is then expected to later try running for a lawmaker seat in the next parliamentary elections.

The possibility still remains for internal discord to continue as the Thursday election was rumored to be a tight race, and power struggle could continue on who should be nominated for what in the local elections.