'Old boys' returning to political center stage

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'Old boys' returning to political center stage

By Park Ji-won

A string of the old guard is returning to Korean politics as parties are struggling to find new faces.
Former Gyeonggi Province Governor and opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu recently declared his bid to become the new leader of the minor conservative Bareunmirae Party (BMP), pledging to revamp Korean politics. The party leadership election is scheduled for next month.

"I'm determined to change the current wrong political system. This has always been my ultimate goal," he told reporters Wednesday.

Sohn ran in the primaries for the liberal parties for the last three presidential elections, but never won any of them.

Lee Hae-chan, a 66-year-old seven-term lawmaker and former prime minister during the 2003-08 Roh Moo-hyun administration, is currently leading a three-way race to become the next leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). One of Lee's contenders is Kim Jin-pyo, 71, a former finance minister.

Former presidential candidate Chung Dong-young, 65, a four-term lawmaker, was elected Sunday to lead the minor liberal Party for Democracy and Peace (PDP).

Lee, Kim and Chung were key Cabinet members during the Roh administration.

Meanwhile, Kim Byong-joon, 64, interim leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), was also one of Roh's closest aides, serving as his policy chief.

When asked about the return of the old guard during a press meeting, Thursday, Lee said, "I know it is an inevitable expression."

However, he added, "When we talk about generational change, it is not desirable to define it based on age, but on philosophy and paradigm."

Sohn also said, "Yes, I know I'm old. But more importantly, it is more about the willingness to change politics."

Experts point out the emergence of veterans, especially from the ruling party, is inevitable because there is a need for an experienced leader in this crucial time of the President Moon Jae-in administration amid the reconciliatory mood on the Korean Peninsula.

"The emergence of the old guard running for the ruling DPK is their pursuit of power by instinct, as the leader of the DPK will be able to make the nomination for the future (general) elections backed by the success of the Moon Jae-in administration," said Park Sang-chul, professor of the graduate school of political science at Kyonggi University.

"Beginning in the second and third years of the Moon Jae-in administration, as there are big issues such as the general elections and the reorganization of the opposition parties, senior or veteran figures should gather power within their parties," said Park Sang-byoung, an invited professor at Inha University.

However, some point out the reason behind the lack of "young" figures is there is no foundation for fostering young politicians.

"I am not sure how many of the old guard are willing to seek real innovation," a lawmaker in his 50s said.

Lee Jun-seok, 35, a Harvard-educated conservative, declared his bid Thursday for leadership of the BMP at a press conference. He criticized the old politicians, saying they cannot revive their parties as they are thinking too much about vested rights within the party to bother coming up with party reform plans.

"As this is the race to choose the party's face, I will compete with them over the party innovation scheme," he said.

"Even if I have spent seven years in and out of politics, I have experienced many things I didn't want to be involved in, being advised by the older generation. Young people are poised to face unlimited competition to win seats at the lowest level. Lawmakers who supervise them should make efforts suitable for their position."


By Park Ji-won

A string of the old guard is returning to Korean politics as parties are struggling to find new faces.
Former Gyeonggi Province Governor and opposition leader Sohn Hak-kyu recently declared his bid to become the new leader of the minor conservative Bareunmirae Party (BMP), pledging to revamp Korean politics. The party leadership election is scheduled for next month.

"I'm determined to change the current wrong political system. This has always been my ultimate goal," he told reporters Wednesday.

Sohn ran in the primaries for the liberal parties for the last three presidential elections, but never won any of them.

Lee Hae-chan, a 66-year-old seven-term lawmaker and former prime minister during the 2003-08 Roh Moo-hyun administration, is currently leading a three-way race to become the next leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). One of Lee's contenders is Kim Jin-pyo, 71, a former finance minister.

Former presidential candidate Chung Dong-young, 65, a four-term lawmaker, was elected Sunday to lead the minor liberal Party for Democracy and Peace (PDP).

Lee, Kim and Chung were key Cabinet members during the Roh administration.

Meanwhile, Kim Byong-joon, 64, interim leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), was also one of Roh's closest aides, serving as his policy chief.

When asked about the return of the old guard during a press meeting, Thursday, Lee said, "I know it is an inevitable expression."

However, he added, "When we talk about generational change, it is not desirable to define it based on age, but on philosophy and paradigm."

Sohn also said, "Yes, I know I'm old. But more importantly, it is more about the willingness to change politics."

Experts point out the emergence of veterans, especially from the ruling party, is inevitable because there is a need for an experienced leader in this crucial time of the President Moon Jae-in administration amid the reconciliatory mood on the Korean Peninsula.

"The emergence of the old guard running for the ruling DPK is their pursuit of power by instinct, as the leader of the DPK will be able to make the nomination for the future (general) elections backed by the success of the Moon Jae-in administration," said Park Sang-chul, professor of the graduate school of political science at Kyonggi University.

"Beginning in the second and third years of the Moon Jae-in administration, as there are big issues such as the general elections and the reorganization of the opposition parties, senior or veteran figures should gather power within their parties," said Park Sang-byoung, an invited professor at Inha University.

However, some point out the reason behind the lack of "young" figures is there is no foundation for fostering young politicians.

"I am not sure how many of the old guard are willing to seek real innovation," a lawmaker in his 50s said.

Lee Jun-seok, 35, a Harvard-educated conservative, declared his bid Thursday for leadership of the BMP at a press conference. He criticized the old politicians, saying they cannot revive their parties as they are thinking too much about vested rights within the party to bother coming up with party reform plans.

"As this is the race to choose the party's face, I will compete with them over the party innovation scheme," he said.

"Even if I have spent seven years in and out of politics, I have experienced many things I didn't want to be involved in, being advised by the older generation. Young people are poised to face unlimited competition to win seats at the lowest level. Lawmakers who supervise them should make efforts suitable for their position."



Park Ji-won jwpark@koreatimes.co.kr
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