Kim Hwang-sik denies reports, leaves ruling party with few options

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jan 20, 2014 - 19:53
  • Updated : Jan 20, 2014 - 19:53
Kim Hwang-sik (left), Park Won-soon

The outlook for the ruling Saenuri Party in the Seoul mayoral race was clouded further Monday, with former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik denying reports that he had accepted the party’s call to run for candidacy.

On Monday, a local newspaper reported that Kim met a high-level Saenuri Party official last week, and accepted the ruling party’s call to run in the party’s primary. Kim, who had denied having any intention to run in the election until last year, was also shown making similar comments in a recent televised report.

At the time Kim said that representing the Saenuri Party would be his “moral duty” if he was the strongest candidate from the conservative bloc.

Later in the day, however, Kim denied the reports saying he only wanted to rest. The former prime minister left the question of running for Saenuri Party’s candidacy open.

“I hope such a suggestion does not come to me. If such is proposed, I will make my position clear then,” Kim told a local news agency.

Kim’s ambiguous comments leave the ruling party without a clear choice in its attempt to oust incumbent Mayor Park Won-soon.

At present Saenuri Party supreme council member Lee Hye-hoon is the only one to have officially declared his intention to run for the ruling party’s candidacy in the mayoral elections.

Kim is thought to be one of Saenuri Party’s strongest bets in a race against Mayor Park after Rep. Chung Mong-joon.

Although Chung was the ruling party’s first choice, the seven-term lawmaker declared earlier this month that he would not run for Seoul mayor.

Recent polls showed that Kim’s support rate as a mayoral candidate trailed that of Park by about 15 percent. The same surveys showed that the gap would be narrowed to as little as 6.8 percent should Chung represent the Saenuri Party.

Also on Monday the mayor indicated in a radio interview that he might yield to a candidate backed by independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, further clouding the outlook for the opposition bloc.

“If it benefits the citizens, then I should yield (to Ahn) a hundred times over,” Park said regarding the independent lawmaker’s recent comment.

Park, however, declined to elaborate on the conditions under which he would take such a step, saying that politics and elections were affected by many variables.

Park added that he maintains good relations with Ahn, but that it was not the right time for him to meet with the former presidential candidate.

In an interview with a local daily on Sunday, Ahn said that the opposition bloc should yield to him considering past developments.

“Maybe it is time for (the DP to) yield? The people will decide, in accordance with political ethics,” Ahn was quoted as saying in the report.

In 2011, Ahn supported Park in the Seoul mayoral by-election and stepped aside for the DP’s Rep. Moon Jae-in in the 2012 presidential race. His move in 2011 is thought to have been crucial in Park beating the ruling party’s Na Kyung-won by a large margin.

By Choi He-suk (