Incumbent Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon won the ruling party’s ticket to run for a second mayoral term yesterday, also securing his position as one of the strongest contenders for the 2012 presidential poll.
The Seoul mayoralty gained further political weight after President Lee Myung-bak obtained a landslide victory in the presidential race three years ago on the back of his visible achievements while serving as the city’s mayor from 2002 to 2006.
|Grand National Party candidates for Seoul mayor clasp hands before a voting contest yesterday. From left: incumbent Mayor Oh Se-hoon, former party spokeswoman Na Kyung-won and lawmaker Kim Choong-hwan. Yang Dong-chul/The Korea Herald|
Lawyer-turned-politician Oh garnered more than 68 percent of support from members of the Grand National Party and 73 percent in the poll of 6,000 Seoul citizens, beating his in-house contenders Na Kyung-won and Kim Choong-hwan by a large margin.
The final race for Seoul mayor on June 2 is now likely to be boiled down to a duel between Oh and former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, the likely candidate of the main opposition Democratic Party.
“The moment I win the final race, I will return to the Seoul mayor’s seat and work on setting Seoul upon an unbreakable rock,” Oh said in his acceptance speech, emphasizing he needs another four years to accomplish his goal of making Seoul one of the world’s top five cities.
Oh began his political career in 2000, when he was elected into the National Assembly. Leading a group of young legislators, Oh was considered one of the centrist members keeping an ideological balance in the conservative ruling party.
Taking over the Seoul mayor position from President Lee in 2006, Oh has sought several costly ventures which included renovating the central Gwanghwanmun plaza. Rival political forces, however, criticize that while Oh’s policies may have changed Seoul’s appearance for the better, life has become harder especially for the city’s underprivileged sector.
Recent polls show Oh is leading the Seoul mayor race, with former Prime Minister Han chasing him with a margin of less than 5 percent.
Han, who served under ex-President Roh Moo-hyun, was recently cleared of bribery charges, a ruling that has been seen as a political backlash against President Lee and his conservative party.
Han, 65, is also considered the main opposition DP’s possible candidate for the 2012 presidential vote.
The main opposition party is to finalize its candidate for Seoul mayor Thursday.
By Shin Hae-in (firstname.lastname@example.org)