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GNP seeks to avoid ‘wealthy party’ tag

New floor leader Hwang says party will reach out to the people with policies

The newly elected floor leader of the ruling Grand National Party pledged to rid the party of its reputation as an affluent party remote from the realities of citizens.

“Our party will focus on designing customized welfare policies for people of all ages,” said Rep. Hwang Woo-yea in a radio speech on Tuesday.

“Our aim is to come up with realistic measures on tuition fees for students, jobs for the young adults, childcare support for parents, housing facilities for household heads and retirement programs for the elderly aged over 50.”

He especially pledged to push ahead with family support programs such as compulsory education for children under age 5 as a way to relieve the parents of daycare burden.

The former judge, who is widely known as a neutral figure and a reformer, was elected Friday as the GNP’s new floor leader.

The vote came amid the party’s distress over its by-election failure and the consensus that fundamental reform is a must.

Hwang’s rise also gave momentum to a group of junior reform-minded lawmakers who set out to change the party from the ground up.

“The GNP has heard the people’ voices in the April by-elections and is determined to follow them,” the floor leader said.

“To begin with, we have shown the nation that factional conflicts may be overcome and that the party may break free from power monopolization and move out for change.”

The party’s leader, who will then keep in tune with the floor leader, is expected to be elected in the June-July period through the party’s national convention.

While the ruling party sought to win back public support, the main opposition Democratic Party readied itself for a new floor leader too.

“The next floor leader is to safeguard the party’s identity as the leading opposition, always keeping renovation and solidarity in mind,” said DP floor leader Park Jie-won in his retirement speech on Tuesday.

“I am glad that the DP has defended assembly rights from the GNP’s attempts to reinforce the nocturnal rally restriction, as it has in many other critical cases.”

He, however, expressed his regret over the latest approval of the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement, which was approved unilaterally by the GNP after a series of inter-party conflicts.

Park is officially to step down from the floor leader post on Friday, when an in-party election will be held to select his successor. The new floor leader is to lead the party in the general elections next April.

By Bae Hyun-jung (