US missionary descendant picked to rescue troubled ruling party
简介The ruling People Power Party on Monday announced an unusual pick to lead the reform of the party -- ...
The ruling People Power Party on Monday announced an unusual pick to lead the reform of the party -- a descendant of an American missionary and a physician who contributed to the establishment of democracy in South Korea in the 1980s.
John Linton, a professor of family medicine at Severance Hospital in Seoul, was chosen as the chief of the party’s reform committee on Monday. The 64-year-old, who became a naturalized South Korean citizen in 2012, was born and raised in the North and South Jeolla Provinces -- traditionally Democratic Party of Korea strongholds -- and has maintained a deep connection to the region.
His upbringing in the strongly Democratic Party-aligned region and background as a volunteer during South Korea’s violent pro-democracy protests would make him an “ideal candidate” to undertake a much needed reform and bring unity to the polarized scene in politics, the ruling party leader Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon said.
In a meeting held at the People Power Party headquarters in Yeouido, central Seoul, the People Power Party’s chair said Linton -- whose Korean name is Ihn Yohan -- will have his party’s full support for his entrusted mission of renewing the party.
"(Linton) is a top authority in his field and a respected man in his community. We are very grateful for his accepting this very challenging, important role,” he said. He added that with Linton’s help he hoped his party would become “the party that the South Korean people will trust.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Linton said he used to get asked which of South Korea’s two major political parties he supported.
“I’m a South Korean citizen who was raised in Jeolla province. My chief concern is how we are going to make the world a better place to live for our children,” he said.
On how he would fill the committee, he said he was recruiting based on talent, adding that he wished to include more women. As for the possibility of running in the next general election, he said he has “put such thoughts aside.” He said his priority was to successfully carry out his job of reforming the party.
Linton’s family has a history of service in South Korea since before the Korean War.
His great grandfather is Eugene Bell, a missionary who gave medical assistance in North and South Jeolla Provinces during the Japanese colonial period. His eponymous Eugene Bell Foundation is a US-based nonprofit dedicated to providing humanitarian and medical aid to North Korea.
His grandfather William Linton, also a missionary and an educator, partook in South Korea’s movement of independence from Japan. His father Hugh Linton fought in the Battle of Inchon as a lieutenant colonel in the US Navy.
Linton himself served as an interpreter for the citizens’ army during the country’s fight for democracy in May 1980 while he was a university student. A decade ago, he was part of the transition team of then-President-elect Park Geun-hye.
The ruling party’s launch of the reform committee follows a crushing defeat in the Oct. 11 by-election to choose the head of Seoul’s western district of Gangseo. In the high-profile election, the People Power Party lost to its rival Democratic Party 39 percent to 56 percent -- a margin much larger than the party’s leadership had anticipated.
The by-election, held in a district of Seoul with a large share of swing voters, was considered a preview of the 2024 general election just six months away. In the capital city, the ruling party is behind the main opposition party by around 10 percentage points in favorability ratings, according to the latest polls.
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