Chung won the primary election Monday dwarfing the support given to former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Saenuri Party supreme council member Lee Hye-hoon.
Chung is a political heavyweight with seven parliamentary terms under his belt. He has also served as the chairman of the Grand National Party ― the Saenuri Party’s predecessor ― and ran a brief presidential campaign in 2002 before he gave way in favor of late President Roh Moo-hyun.
|Rep. Chung Mong-joon weeps during his acceptance speech after being voted in as the ruling Saenuri Party’s Seoul mayoral candidate in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)|
In the primary election, Chung received 2,657 of the 3,598 votes and 60.2 percent of the support in the opinion poll conducted ahead of Monday’s event.
In comparison Kim was given 724 votes and 26 percent support in the opinion poll. The figures for Lee came far short at 217 votes and a 13.8-percent rating in the survey.
“The situation is not easy. The public holds the ruling Saenuri Party responsible (for many recent developments), and demand the party to take on many roles,” Chung said in his acceptance speech.
“Will the (Seoul) mayor’s post be given to incapable and dangerous forces? I, Chung Mong-joon, will stop them with the people of Seoul.”
Regarding his former rivals, Chung said that he will leave the past behind and work with them to win in the June 4 election.
Although Chung beat his Saenuri Party competitors by a large margin, he is likely to face an uphill struggle against incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, who is running for the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy.
Recent surveys have given Park as much as a 6.40-percentage point lead over Chung. In comparison, polls conducted in March had shown the incumbent mayor’s lead to be less than 1 percentage point.
The slip in Chung’s ratings is thought to have been affected by the dropping in approval ratings for President Park Geun-hye and the ruling party since the April 16 ferry disaster.
Following the incident, the death toll, of which stands at 275, and mistrust of the government has grown due in part to its sloppy response.
For Chung the Sewol incident brought unexpected obstacles when his youngest son chimed in, for which Chung again offered an emotional apology in his acceptance speech.
“I sincerely apologize for the rash actions of my son. Please forgive (my) youngest son,” Chung said.
On April 18, Chung’s youngest son described Koreans in general as “primitive” in a Facebook comment describing the way Prime Minister Chung Hong-won was treated by families of ferry accident victims.
During a visit to Jindo Island, South Jeolla Province, Chung Hong-won was met with a hostile reaction from angry family members.
Although he immediately apologized, the controversy was renewed over the weekend when his wife was quoted apparently defending her son.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)