Seoul’s Dongjak-B constituency has become one of the hottest topics of the July 30 parliamentary by-elections and is drawing some of the biggest names in local politics.
The seat, left vacant by former lawmaker Chung Mong-joon when he ran for Seoul mayor in the June 4 local elections, is rumored to be coveted by heavyweights including former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik and Gyeonggi Province Gov. Kim Moon-soo from the ruling party.
The Dongjak-B constituency holds out possibilities for both the ruling and main opposition parties.
Although the seat was taken by the Saenuri Party’s Chung Mong-joon for two consecutive terms in the two most recent general elections, voters in the area have not shown a clear preference for either party.
In the six general elections since 1992, the constituency was won by equal numbers of conservative and progressive lawmakers. In addition, more Dongjak-B voters backed the opposition candidate in the 2012 presidential election, as they did in the June 4 Seoul mayoral election.
However, Dongjak-B voters backed the ruling party candidate in the five most recent general elections, regardless of the party’s ideological stance.
As such, it is considered a likely stepping stone for those seeking a boost for their political careers.
Along with the two Kims, Saenuri Party supreme council member Lee Hye-hoon, former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon and former lawmaker Na Kyung-won have also been linked to the constituency.
The biggest stir, however, is being caused by the possibility of Lee Jung-hyun running in the constituency.
Lee, one of President Park Geun-hye’s closest aides, who until recently served as her chief press secretary, has signaled his intentions to run in the by-elections and has been linked to Dongjak-B due to his political stature.
“Joining the Cabinet doesn’t feel like serving the president properly, and (I) have a mind to (run) in the by-elections,” Lee told a news outlet in a recent phone interview.
Although he has yet to receive the nod from Saenuri Party leaders, Lee’s intentions are already ruffling feathers in the ruling party.
On Monday, Saenuri Party chairman hopefuls Reps. Kim Moo-sung and Kim Young-woo spoke out against a bid by Lee for a parliamentary seat, saying that it would damage the party and the president’s reform drive.
Conservatives are not the only big names eyeing the constituency. Former presidential candidate Chung Dong-young and former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Du-kwan are potential contenders from the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.
In addition, some of NPAD cochairman Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo’s closest associates including NPAD spokesman Geum Tae-seop and former lawmaker Lee Kye-ahn are said to be jockeying for position ahead of the party’s candidate nomination.
Geum has been at Ahn’s side since his presidential bid, while Lee was among the first to defect from the defunct Democratic Party to join Ahn’s party, which ultimately was not formed but merged with the DP to become the NPAD.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)