The Korea Herald


Han vows not to run in 2024 general election

Ex-justice minister sworn in as ruling party interim leader with majority approval

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Dec. 26, 2023 - 18:15

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Former Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon delivers a speech during his inaugural ceremony at the ruling party's headquarters in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap) Former Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon delivers a speech during his inaugural ceremony at the ruling party's headquarters in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Former Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon was officially sworn in as the People Power Party's interim leader on Tuesday, backed by approval from the majority of the ruling party lawmakers.

Han took on the role of chairman of the emergency leadership committee, following a mobile phone voting process involving 824 ruling party lawmakers across the country. Of the total, 650 participated in the ballot and some 96.5 percent, or 627, of the participants voted for Han.

The 50-year-old interim leader pledged to fight to win back voters' trust ahead of the upcoming general elections scheduled for April next year, in his inauguration speech delivered at the party's headquarters in western Seoul.

"I will make efforts to make People Power Party into a group filled with dedicated, trustworthy and competent lawmakers that the Korean citizens can trust and vote for," Han said.

He also revealed that he has no plans to run in the elections next year.

"I will not run in the elections next year to become a district or proportional representative," Han explained.

"I will do everything in my power to win, but will not steal the thunder from anyone," he added.

Han said that he intends to nominate candidates for the upcoming parliamentary elections in April only if they commit to relinquishing the privilege of immunity from arrest for lawmakers.

In South Korea, lawmakers are shielded from criminal arrest during Assembly sessions, a provision that has faced persistent criticism. Critics have urged for the law's abolition, arguing that this immunity has often been exploited to shield corrupt politicians.

Han's message was seen as a thinly veiled criticism at Lee Jae-myung, the leader of South Korea’s main opposition Democratic Party of Korea. Earlier this year, Lee went back on his words to relinquish his privilege of immunity from arrest regarding investigations against corruption charges filed against him. He has since returned from the brink of a legal crisis as the court dismissed an arrest warrant request filed against him in September.

Merely hours after his inauguration, Han embarked on a task of appointing members of the emergency leadership committee. Han named People Power Party Rep. Kim Hyung-dong as the committee's chief secretary on Tuesday afternoon.

The committee is allowed to have up to 15 members, including the chairman himself, according to the party rules. Besides Han and Kim, the committee is expected to include the current party floor leader Yun Jae-ok and chief policymaker Yu Eui-dong.

But as Han initiates the process of the committee creation, widely expected to be completed this week, he will navigate the transformative impact stemming from the imminent departure of former party leader Lee Jun-seok, slated for Wednesday.

Concurrently, Han is anticipated to address the repercussions of the Democratic Party's unilateral plans to pass two investigation proposals, one of which pertains to allegations of illegal stock trading by first lady Kim Keon Hee, during a National Assembly plenary meeting scheduled for Thursday.

Han's inauguration comes nearly two weeks after the People Power Party Chairman Kim Gi-hyeon resigned in a surprise move. Kim expressed hope that his resignation would win back voters' trust and bring about a smooth intraparty reform.

Han is considered one of President Yoon Suk Yeol's closest aides. Before joining Yoon's Cabinet last year, he worked alongside the current president as a fellow prosecutor in investigations into high-profile cases.