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Opposition to field single nominee in Gimhae

Opposition parties have finally reached an agreement to run a single candidate for the upcoming by-election in the hometown of the late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, forewarning a showdown with the ruling party there.

“We have resolved to select a single candidate to represent the opposition parties by Tuesday, when the official candidate registration begins,” an official of a civic group advocating the alliance of opposition parties said Friday.

This was the first agreement the parties came to since convening on Feb. 22 in an attempt to consolidate their candidacy in the Gimhae-B constituency in South Gyeongsang Province.

A public survey will be conducted on Kwak Jin-up of the main opposition Democratic Party, Kim Geun-tae of the Democratic Labor Party and Lee Bong-soo of the People’s Participation Party, the official said.

The final runner will compete with 48-year-old Kim Tae-ho, former South Gyeongsang Governor, who took up the challenge to retake his position in the region.

As a mutual compromise, the DP is expected to withdraw from Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, and the DLP from the Bundang-B constituency and Gangwon Province.

Kwak and Lee are seen to be in a tight race, while Kim is expected to harbor a significant number of non-DP votes from the liberal voters’ pool in the area.

Though there was common agreement that opposition parties should unite, the DP and the DLP earlier were in conflict over the process.

The issue, however, saw rapid progress on Wednesday as the DP came to fully accept the DLP’s proposal, under the arbitration of Moon Jae-in, chairman of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation.

“As there was little time left for both parties, I felt it necessary to interfere,” said Moon in a radio talk show interview Friday.

“Either candidate, when selected as a sole forerunner, is sufficiently capable of winning over the GNP rival Kim Tae-ho.”

Moon also added that both Kwak and Lee succeeded the “Roh spirit,” a significant variable to be considered in Gimhae, which is Roh’s hometown and place of death.

“Our party has decided to take a step back in order to achieve victory through sacrifice and devotion,” said DP leader Sohn Hak-kyu.

“The opposition camps will unite as one, instead of clinging on to their respective partisan interests.”

However, the opposition parties’ months-long conflict over the Gimhae candidacy has resulted in a loss of public approval and a boost in the GNP’s support.

“Though the candidate consolidation of the opposition parties may affect the by-election race, we expect that Kim should overcome such difficulties, with his past experience as the region’s governor,” said a GNP official.

By Bae Hyun-jung (