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Race heating up for Seoul mayoral post

Aug. 28, 2011 - 19:37 By
Rep. Chun of DP abandons parliamentary seat to run in Oct. 26 by-election

Parties rushed to establish strategies for the Seoul mayor selection in the Oct. 26 by-elections, after Oh Se-hoon’s resignation on Friday.

The ruling Grand National Party strove to defend its control of the Korean capital and the main opposition Democratic Party sought the chance to win back the post before next year’s general and presidential races.

Seoul has been run by GNP mayors for the past 10 years, including President Lee Myung-bak who was elected back in 2002.
Democratic Party Rep. Chun Jung-bae (center) announces his bid to become Seoul mayor in the Oct. 26 by-election during a press conference at the National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap News)

The GNP’s priority task, according to party officials, is to nominate a public figure charismatic enough to overcome the present political crisis and maintain control over conservative voters.

“We have to select a competitive figure, on the premise that the opposition camp may come up with a unified candidate,” said Rep. Chung Doo-un, chief of the party’s Yeoido Institute.

Chung also said the party is to avoid framing the mayoral race as a “welfare policy war” so as not to repeat the plebiscite all over again.

Supreme Council member Rep. Na Kyung-won is currently considered the frontrunner to take the party’s candidacy the metropolitan government seat, according to party officials.

The GNP, however, is handicapped by the negative images caused by the discord between Oh and the party.

Party chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo earlier expressed his anger at Oh’s decision, blaming him for placing his personal honor above the interests of the party or of the nation.

The ruling party candidate may also have to face a sole and more powerful opposition candidate, should opposition parties reach an agreement to unite.

The DP, on the other hand, is showing more aggressive moves.

The party’s Supreme Council member Rep. Chun Jung-bae gave up on his lawmaker seat on Sunday, after his earlier announcement to challenge the Seoul mayor position on Thursday.

Former prime minister Han Myeong-sook, who fought a tight match with Oh in last year’s local elections, is also a powerful candidate.

Though Han faces court rulings on charges of bribery and an illicit political fund raising, she remains qualified for the election candidacy. She will, however, be deprived of her elected post afterwards, should the Supreme Court hand down a prison sentence or a fine of 1 million won ($924) or more.

The DP’s campaign strategy will largely focus on investment in human resources, welfare and jobs, in an aim to show a clear contrast to Oh’s construction-focused policies, according to party officials.

In the upcoming Oct. 26 by-elections, eight local administration chiefs, seven metropolitan or provincial councilors and 12 local councilors are to be selected, including the Seoul mayor.

By Bae Hyun-jung (