The support base of the opposition party looking for the change of leadership chose a drastic shift from the previous political convention. Lee Jun-seok, a 36-year-old politician with no experience as a lawmaker, won a victory Friday to become the leader of the People Power Party. He is the first leader of a ruling party or a main opposition party below 40 in the constitutional history of South Korea. With the next presidential election coming up next year, both ruling and opposition parties nervously observed dramatic changes in public sentiment and analyzed election results. South Korea’s political landscape is going through a huge shift.
Lee secured 43.8 percent of the ballots cast by party members (70 percent) and private citizens (30 percent), defeating former floor leader of the party Na Kyung-won in second place by 6.7 percentage points. Lee won 58.8 percent in the poll of private citizens compared to 28.3 percent for Na and was close to her 40.9 percent in the poll of party members by winning 37.4 percent of ballots. Party members who mostly elected Hwang Kyo-ahn, a former Prime Minister for President Park Geun-hye, two years ago as the party’s leader had a change of heart according to a shift in public opinions. Compared to his predecessor Kim Chong-in, an 81-year-old former chairman of the Emergency Planning Commission, the newly elected leader is 45 years younger.
“Let’s try not to force the preconceptions about what it is to be youthful, a senior party member, or a party leader and disregard precious individuality in South Korean society,” said Lee in his acceptance speech, refusing the existing political convention. He shared bold ideas, such as selecting spokespersons through debate battles and a speech competition and creating a qualification test for candidates for public offices. He added that the most important task is to win the presidential election and that he will create a party in which diverse presidential candidates can co-exist. There was heavy criticism during the recent election process that Lee who is close to Yoo Seong-min, a party’s presidential candidate, will struggle to integrate presidential candidates outside the party, such as former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl and leader of the People Party Ahn Cheol-soo.
On the same day, the People Power Party also elected four supreme council members – Cho su-jin, Bae Hyun-jin, Kim Jae-won, and Jeong Mi-kyoung – and a youth supreme council member Kim Yong-tae who is 31 years old. The average age of the party’s new leadership, including Lee in the “MZ generation,” is 44.5 years old.
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