Six-term lawmaker close to Park named new National Assembly speaker
A six-term lawmaker, considered loyal to leading presidential hopeful Park Geun-hye, was selected as the new National Assembly speaker Friday in a move seen as underlining Park's influence over the ruling Saenuri Party.
Rep. Kang Chang-hee beat rival candidate Rep. Chung Ui-hwa 88-48 in a vote by ruling party lawmakers. As the largest party in the 300-member parliament with 150 seats, the ruling party has the right to designate the Assembly speaker and a vice speaker.
The party selected Rep. Lee Byung-suk as its vice speaker.
The main opposition Democratic United Party is expected to designate another vice speaker.
Kang will formally take office for a two-year term in a parliamentary meeting next week.
Kang, 66, is the latest Park loyalist in the ruling party to take a key post after pro-Park members swept all top party posts, including those of party chief, floor leader and secretary general, last month.
A graduate of the Korea Military Academy, Kang retired from the military as a lieutenant colonel and entered politics in 1980 after former President Chun Doo-hwan, then an Army officer, seized power in a coup a year earlier.
The coup happened amid the chaos that followed the assassination of Park's father, former general-turned-President Park Chung-hee, by his spy chief. Chun was the chief investigator of the killing.
Park has not formally announced her presidential bid, but few doubt she will run for president.
Park consolidated her standing as a leading presidential hopeful of the party after rebuilding the once-beleaguered party with sweeping reform measures and leading it to a widely unexpected victory in last month's general elections.