Would-be conservative Seoul mayoral candidates are jostling for position as the Saenuri Party’s lineup for its primaries nears completion.
On Friday, former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik returned from an extended trip to the U.S. to officially begin his campaign. With an official declaration on Sunday, Kim will join Rep. Chung Mong-joon, a seven-term lawmaker who headed the conservatives from 2009 to 2010, and Saenuri Party supreme council member Lee Hye-hoon at the starting line.
“Taking Seoul mayor’s post will only be possible when the most competitive candidate is selected. I have decided to run, considering myself a competitive candidate,” Kim said. He added that he will do what he can to take the ruling party to victory in the election, and denied rumors that he was being supported by a particular faction within the Saenuri Party.
|Kim Hwang-sik arrives in Seoul from the U.S. on Friday. (Yonhap)|
Although Kim has only recently made his intentions clear, he has been surrounded by rumors that he received preferential treatment from the party. One such rumor is that the deadline for candidate registration was pushed back in order to give him time to return from the U.S.
Kim is also reported to have the support of the ruling party’s pro-Park Geun-hye faction, with key figures including former lawmaker Lee Sung-hun set to take on major roles in his campaign.
In addition, he is reported to have the support of the pro-Lee Myung-bak faction. Pro-Lee figures linked to Kim’s campaign include Park Sun-kyoo, who served as a Cheong Wa Dae spokesman in the Lee Myung-bak administration. Park told a local daily that he would offer to serve as Kim’s campaign spokesman “as (I) have ties with the former prime minister.”
According to reports, a number of late President Kim Dae-jung’s associates who defected from the main opposition Democratic Party in 2012 are also set to join the former prime minister’s campaign.
The spreading rumors of the party favoring Kim appear to be unsettling other candidates and feeding discontent within the party.
“It is the fault of the Saenuri Party. This is because (the Saenuri Party) gives off the image that it is not fulfilling the role of the ruling party and that it is reliant on Cheong Wa Dae,” Chung said in a recent interview.
Chung has also expressed discontent at the party’s decision to select the Seoul mayoral candidate through a series of primaries. Along with Seoul, the candidates for Busan and Gyeonggi Province government chiefs will be elected through a series of primaries.
“If schisms between (Saenuri Party) supporters occur, it is inevitable that (the Saenuri Party) candidate’s competitiveness will be weakened,” Park Ho-jin, Chung’s campaign spokesman, said in a statement on Friday. He added that holding a series of primaries to select the Seoul mayoral candidate was unprecedented and behind the times.
“If an unprecedented method is being introduced for (the benefit of) a particular candidate, the person who suggested the plan is mocking Seoul citizens.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org