As if a plummeting approval rating wasn’t enough, a new “anti”-Park Geun-hye faction is taking shape in South Korea’s parliament. On Monday, Yoo Sung-min was elected floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party. Won Yoo-chul, who ran in tandem with Yoo, was elected to the position of chief policymaker. The two conservative lawmakers have been described as outside the pro-Park party faction. With 84 votes (out of a possible 149), the two beat pro-Park lawmakers Lee Ju-young and Hong Moon-chong.
The election of Yoo and Won is a signal that the ruling party is set to take a new stance vis-à-vis the Blue House, with whom it has grown increasingly disenchanted. Poor handling of national affairs and a cabinet constantly in crisis has not boded well for Blue House-ruling party relations.
Besides a new floor leader and chief policymaker, there is also the party chairman, Kim Moo-sung. As I’ve pointed out before, Kim Moo-sung is a political force in his own right. Once a direct political opponent of Park Geun-hye and a probable 2017 presidential candidate, Kim has, since taking the reins of the ruling party, been seen as openly challenging the power and authority of the president. In fact, it was Kim’s election to the position of chairman that first signaled that the ruling party was beginning to grow impatient with Park’s administration. To win the position, Kim defeated Suh Chung-won, the so-called “godfather of the pro-Park faction.” Together, Kim and Yoo present a formidable challenge to the Blue House. JTBC describes it as the “Two Top System.”
How, exactly, the new anti-Park faction, lead by Kim Moo-sung, Yoo Sung-min, and Won Yoo-chul will challenge the Blue House is yet to be seen. Yoo did, however, hint that the official line coming from the Blue House with regards to taxes and welfare would be challenged. Park Geun-hye has said that there will be “welfare without tax increases.” In a press conference after his election, Yoo remarked, “The government’s current theme of ‘welfare without tax increases’ will need to be changed.”