By Kim Na-young
SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- Former four-term lawmaker Na Kyung-won tendered her written resignation as vice chair of the presidential committee on low birthrates Friday, giving rise to widespread views that she is likely to declare a run for leader of the ruling People Power Party.
Na submitted the hard-copy resignation as President Yoon Suk Yeol has shown no reaction for days after she expressed her intention to quit in a text message and a phone call to presidential officials earlier this week.
Yoon's silence was widely seen as an indication that he is against Na running for PPP leader.
"She appears to be making up her mind toward a run," a person close to Na said. "She could make her course of action clear as soon as President Yoon returns from an overseas trip."
Yoon is set to visit the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland from Saturday through next week.
The 60-year-old Na is a strong favorite in the PPP chairmanship race, leading other contenders with a wide margin in opinion polls, though she has not officially declared her bid yet.
The PPP plans to hold a national convention on March 8 to pick a new leader.
An opinion poll released this week showed that PPP supporters picked Na as their favorite for party leader, giving her almost twice as much support as the closest challenger Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon. Other contenders include Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo and Yoon Sang-hyun.
PPP members close to Yoon are widely believed to be backing Kim, and they are concerned that if Na runs, she could split the pro-Yoon votes and let another candidate less loyal to Yoon take over the party.
Na's resignation came after Yoon's office openly voiced displeasure with Na's policy suggestion to tackle South Korea's record low birthrate, saying she unilaterally announced policies without prior consultation with the office.
Na told a press conference the country should adopt policies similar to those of Hungary, under which the government allows couples to take out a 40 million-won (US$32,000) loan when getting married and release the debt partly and then in full after the birth of their second and third child, respectively.
Earlier Friday, Na wrote in a Facebook post, "I do not believe you people genuinely wish for the success of President Yoon Suk Yeol and his government," apparently referring to pro-Yoon lawmakers who have pressed her to opt out of the PPP leadership race.
Special contribution by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Adversary that challenges S. Korea challenging Seoul-Washington alliance as whole: U.S. defense chief
Actor Song joong-ki announces marriage and wife's pregnancy
(URGENT) Pentagon chief says trilateral cooperation among S. Korea, U.S., Japan enhances 'all of our security'
Yoon meets with NATO chief, promises to help Ukrainian people