Doctor-turned-civic activist Yoon Jang-hyun struggled with low ratings due to a dispute over his nomination with the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy. But he came from behind to win the Gwangju gubernatorial election Wednesday.
Yoon benefited from the strong support of the party leadership, notably cochairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, garnering 57.9 percent of the votes while independent candidate Kang Woon-tae ended with a disappointing 31.8 percent.
The results came as a surprise ― and a major relief for Ahn ―- as Yoon had been lagging behind Kang with a gap of as much as 20 percentage points in earlier polls.
Kang, the incumbent mayor of the city, a stronghold of the liberal opposition bloc, broke off from the NPAD in protest of its decision to nominate Yoon as the official candidate.
“I think the citizens have a great desire to change Gwangju,” Yoon said in his campaign office in Gwangju on Wednesday. Yoon promised to “open a new era in Gwangju” after he takes office.
Some political observers expected that Yoon, a relative newcomer in politics compared to his rivals, would face an uphill battle, partly because he was closely associated with Ahn, whose political organization merged with the opposition party in an initiative to introduce what he calls “new politics.”
But a turning point came just a week ahead of the elections as Ahn and cochairman Kim Han-gil and other party leaders visited Gwangju in a show of support, which resulted in moving the voters in the city, traditionally known for favoring progressive candidates.
Yoon, who was born in South Jeolla Province in 1948, graduated with a degree in medicine from Chosun University.
By Suh Ye-seul (email@example.com