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Hong: A man not afraid of making enemies

July 4, 2011 - 20:10 By 김소현
Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the ruling Grand National Party delivers a speech during its national convention in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap News)
Outspoken ex-prosecutor on a fourth term takes over troubled ruling party

Outspoken four-term lawmaker and former prosecutor Rep. Hong Joon-pyo was selected as the new leader of the Grand National Party Monday amid expectations for change as the ruling party continues to lose popularity.

Having remained non-mainstream throughout his past 15 years in the GNP, Hong is best known for his straightfoward criticism of opposition or even fellow ruling party politicians. Often described as a “maverick” or “Don Qixote,” Hong never assumed pivotal positions in the party though he headed its committees for strategic planning and innovation.

Hong rose to social stardom as a state prosecutor investigating a scandalous slot machine gambling case and earned his first parliamentary seat in 1996.

Having personally known President Lee Myung-bak since 1999 when they both lived in Washington D.C., Hong was one of the first GNP lawmakers to be supportive of Lee well ahead of the 2007 presidential election. But he decided to stay out of the so-called pro-Lee majority faction. Political antagonism still runs between the pro-Lee group and a minority faction supporting Rep. Park Geun-hye who lost to Lee in the GNP’s internal race for presidential candidacy.

Born in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, in 1954, Hong went to school in Daegu, majored law at Korea University in Seoul. Upon passing the national bar exam, he became a state prosecutor.

Hong built on his career as a prosecutor by investigating some famous cases such as the labor-management dispute of Hyundai Heavy Industries in 1987 and organized gang crimes in the early 1990s.

After becoming a legislator, Hong has served on the National Assembly’s committees on finance and economy, information, legal and judicial affairs, environment and labor, climate control and energy plans, political affairs and defense.

Hong was elected as one of the five members of the GNP’s supreme council in July last year. In the 18th National Assembly, Hong has served as the GNP’s floor leader and chief of the GNP’s special committee on policies for low- and middle-income classes.

By Kim So-hyun (