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Park Geun-hye takes helms of struggling ruling party

All Headlines 17:39 December 19, 2011

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- The ruling Grand National Party (GNP)'s leading presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye took the helm of the party's emergency council Monday with reform pledges to revive the unpopular party before next year's general elections.

Her comeback to the party's forefront followed former chairman Hong Joon-pyo's resignation earlier this month under pressure from reformist lawmakers, who voiced discontent with the leadership over the way it has been handling the fast-dwindling approval ratings.

The GNP last week revised a party charter that bans presidential candidates from leading the party to allow the high-profile female politician to take charge as an interim leader. The previous rule was aimed at separating the power between the party's leader and its presidential candidate.

"I felt miserable when I saw people turning their heads away from the party," Park said at an acceptance speech during an opening ceremony for the emergency council. "I have nothing to lose or to gain. I will give everything I have to serve the people."

Park was likely referencing her late parents and the fact that she is unmarried and does not have children. Park first lost her mother and then her father, the late President Park Chung-hee, in assassinations in the 1970s. Park made a similar pledge when she ran for the party's presidential primary in 2007, but lost to now President Lee Myung-bak.

The former chairwoman, who has stayed away from party affairs over the past few years, came to the party's forefront with growing calls for her to carry out a major reform of the beleagured conservative party prior to the April elections.

Park was once dubbed "the queen of elections" after she played a key role in the 2004 elections by reviving the then-hopeless GNP, which had been hit by a bribery scandal and fallout from the impeachment of late President Roh Moo-hyun. The impeachment sparked strong public backlash against the then-opposition party that controlled a majority in the parliament.

Political analysts say Park's leadership will ultimately affect her 2012 election bid, since the April general elections are considered as a crucial vote that could impact the presidential race in December.

It is the first time in 20 years that South Korea will elect a new parliament and a new president in the same year.


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