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(LEAD) Choo Mi-ae elected as new Minjoo head

All Headlines 18:25 August 27, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photo; CHANGES headline, lead; UPDATES throughout with election result)
By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Aug, 27 (Yonhap) -- Members of South Korea's main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea elected Rep. Choo Mi-ae as their new head on Saturday, signaling "progressive-leaning" changes in the party's major policies.

Choo, a five-term lawmaker who represents the Gwangjin District of Seoul, was officially named as the new chairwomen to replace Kim Chong-in, the party's interim head who has been maintaining an overall neutral political stance.

The female lawmaker, originally born in the southern city of Daegu, first started her political career through the help of late president Kim Dae-jung.

She also had played a crucial role in the election campaign of late president Roh Moo-hyun. But Choo later faced challenges in her political career after voting in favor of impeaching Roh.

The lawmaker, however, successfully made reconciliations with politicians of the so-called pro-Roh faction, claiming that participating in the impeachment attempts was the biggest mistake of her career.

Reflecting this, followers of the party's leading presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in, who inherited the Roh faction since his death in 2009, gave full support to Choo, allowing her to win the top party post.

The result is anticipated to give Moon a second chance to run in next year's presidential election and try to recoup his defeat by incumbent President Park Geun-hye. Moon stepped down from the party's top post earlier this year following internal strife.

Political pundits said the result reflects the party members' desire to choose a strong leadership that can unite the party. If other hopefuls won the race, the party could have fallen into a more intense battle to pick presidential candidates, they added.

The result is also set to bring major "progressive-leaning" changes to party policies, including its stance on the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system in the country, they also said.

Choo's predecessor, has maintained a neutral stance against the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in the country, which bought criticism from some of Minjoo's progressive lawmakers.

Choo earlier vowed she will take a tougher stance in regards to THAAD.

The move will also apparently further weigh down the party's relationship with the conservative ruling Saenuri Party, which claims the missile defense system is integral to defending South Korea against Pyongyang's evolving nuclear and missile threats.

Pundits said Choo, however, is anticipated to face challenges down the road due to her history of supporting attempts to impeach Roh, which is considered as "unpardonable" for some liberal officials.

Her background as being born in the right-leaning region of Daegu, on the other hand, can help the Minjoo gain ground in the conservative southeastern part of the country, they added.

colin@yna.co.kr
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