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Parties eye current and former P.M.s for mayoral race

Parties, still shaken by the aftermath of Ahn Cheol-soo dropping his bid to run for Seoul mayor, are racking their brains seeking a competitive candidate for next month’s Seoul mayoral by-election.

The ruling Grand National Party and the main opposition Democratic Party turned their eyes to incumbent Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, respectively.
(From left) Kim Hwang-sik, Han Myeong-sook
(From left) Kim Hwang-sik, Han Myeong-sook

However, the two have either denied any intention to run or kept silent so far.

“It would be inappropriate for me to run for the Seoul mayor by-election,” Kim told reporters on Thursday.

Public Administration and Security Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu, who was considered a valid alternative to Kim, also claimed that he had no intention to take part in the race.

“I will clarify my plans as soon as possible,” said Han on Thursday, refusing to speak further on the by-election issue.

Rep. Na Kyung-won, who was previously the strongest candidate in the ruling camp, has so far refrained from saying whether she will won.

Though she is still among the upper ranks in most public polls, her mayoral scenario faltered as party chairman Hong Joon-pyo hinted that a non-partisan figure is more appropriate to bring changes to the mayoral post.

Hong is also said to be seeking a neutral figure who may thin down the recent conflicts with the Democrat-dominated Seoul City Council, effectively vetoing Na, a representative pro-Lee Myung-bak member.

On the DP camp, a dozen lawmakers including former chairman Rep. Chung Sye-kyun issued a statement, urging former Prime Minister Han to step out and announce her candidacy.

Though Han has not made her declaration yet, observers expect her to join the race as she met with Park Won-soon on Tuesday and agreed to work together for candidate unification who will represent the opposition camp.

“Han has not made up her mind over her candidacy and is open to all possibilities,” said Rep. Baek Won-woo, a close aide to the former liberal prime minister.

In last year’s election for Seoul mayor, Han lost in a tight match against Oh Se-hoon.

According to a recent survey conducted by a local newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, Han won the support of 18.4 percent, narrowly beating the GNP’s Na by 1 percent. Park ranked top with 19.2 percent.

While Han faced her last-minute decision, the four opposition parties agreed on Thursday to unify their candidates through a two-track method.

“Each party or independent camp is to put forth a sole candidate, and one will be selected as the final opposition frontrunner,” said a party official.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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