|Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon pays a visit Thursday to a memorial for the Sewol ferry victims set up in Seoul Plaza after officially announcing his bid for re-election. ( Yonhap)|
South Korea is scheduled to hold local elections on June 4 to choose 17 new provincial governors and mayors as well as education superintendents and local council members. The polls are seen as a mid-term referendum on President Park Geun-hye’s conservative administration, especially amid strong public criticism of the government’s handling of last month’s deadly ferry disaster.
Park Won-soon was picked as the standard-bearer of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy last week.
“I will pursue a Seoul where people are safe, a Seoul where people are warm-hearted, a Seoul where people dream and create, a Seoul where people and the city breathe together, and a Seoul that is upright and dignified,” he said in a press conference at Seoul City Hall.
“I have reflected on the lessons I have learned from the failures and mistakes of the past two and a half years during which I was responsible for the city’s tremendous administration.
“The new Seoul should place top priority on people, lives and safety, and uphold basics and principles.”
His remarks come amid mounting public concerns about safety in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster and a subway collision in Seoul that left dozens of people injured early this month.
The 6,825-ton ferry sank off the country’s southwest coast on April 16, leaving more than 300 people dead or missing.
The 58-year-old former lawyer and human rights activist will run against Chung Mong-joon, a seven-term lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party who once served as vice chairman of football’s world governing body, FIFA.
Chung was elected the ruling party’s candidate in a primary on Monday.
The Seoul mayorship carries extra weight in South Korean politics as it is often seen as a steppingstone to becoming the president. Former Seoul Mayor Lee Myung-bak was elected president in 2002, running on his accomplishments as the top administrator of the city.
Both Park and Chung have denied having presidential aspirations.
Ahead of Chung’s election on Monday, Park called on the future ruling party candidate to jointly hold a small, quiet and inexpensive election out of respect for the national atmosphere of mourning over the Sewol ferry disaster.
He also proposed that he and his future rival draw up a joint pledge for the safety of Seoul’s citizens, stressing that there should be no partisan dispute when it comes to such issues.
In an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Wednesday, Park pledged to earmark an additional 3 trillion won if he wins re-election to improve safety in subways and roads, and invest in anti-flooding measures and safety zones for children. (Yonhap)