Lee Jae-myung, the former presidential nominee of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, on Sunday declared his candidacy for a parliamentary seat in the by-elections.
The former governor of Gyeonggi Province will run in the Gyeyang-B district in Incheon.
It is unusual for an unsuccessful former presidential candidate to run for a legislative seat just two months after losing the March 9 presidential election. It is a shameless act that ignores voters.
Of course, the former presidential candidate has the freedom to run for office. But if he respects the people’s will, the first thing he should do is to keep away from politics and reflect on his defeat in the presidential election. The whole responsibility for the outcome of the presidential election lies with the candidate. This was why presidential candidates who lost in the past showed restraint and went through a considerable period of soul-searching before they came back to politics.
Lee’s candidacy declaration came after former Democratic Party chair Song Young-gil resigned from his parliamentary seat in the district to run for Seoul mayor. There are suspicions in the party that Song is intentionally running for Seoul mayor to make way for Lee’s bid.
A more serious issue is that Lee is running in the parliamentary by-elections with a string of allegations of wrongdoing trailing behind him.
As part of the Gyeonggi Nambu Police Agency probe into Lee and his wife over allegedly misusing government credit cards for personal use, the agency searched the Gyeonggi provincial government building on April 4. The search warrant specified the couple as accomplices in the crime of causing loss to the national treasury.
Separately, the Bundang police in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, searched the Seongnam city government building on May 2 in connection with allegations that the local government gave privileges to six companies for donating 16 billion won ($12.5 million) to Seongnam Football Club when Lee owned the club as Seongnam mayor.
A trial against a handful of private partners who allegedly took astronomical profits from a public-private project to develop Daejang-dong in Seongnam is ongoing. The project, executed when Lee was Seongnam mayor, was structured to limit the city’s share to 182.2 billion won no matter how big the development profits would be. Questions such as who approved such a project structure and for what purposes have not been found yet.
Many people regard his aberrational bid to be a lawmaker as an attempt to protect himself from investigations over bribery and other corruption scandals.
Under article 44 of the Constitution, lawmakers cannot be arrested or detained without consent of the National Assembly when in session, if they are not caught in the act.
If he bothers to run in the by-elections to be held as part of the June 1 local elections, it would be right and natural to run in Bundang, Seongnam, his political hometown where he resides. The parliamentary seat in the Bundang-A district remains vacated as Kim Eun-hye of the People Power Party quit to run for Gyeonggi provincial governor in the local polls.
Lee has no connection at all to Gyeyang-B. And yet he chose the district, not Bundang-A, apparently because he faces an uphill battle in Bundang. In the presidential election, Lee led Yoon Suk-yeol, his rival of the People Power Party, in Gyeyang, but trailed Yoon in Bundang. Gyeyang-B is regarded as a long-standing Democratic Party constituency where Song was elected as a lawmaker five times from 2000 to 2020.
He avoided his political home turf to run in a precinct where he had no connections to. It is bad manners to Gyeyang voters. Just two months ago, Lee ran for the top leader of the country. Now, he rushes for a parliamentary seat to shield himself from investigations. He should clear his name before seeking voters’ judgment.