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Opposition dispute escalates as ex-vice mayor accepts nomination

NPAD’s nomination of Ki sparks a personal and political drama

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Published : 2014-07-08 21:50
Updated : 2014-07-08 21:50

A former Seoul metropolitan vice mayor on Tuesday accepted a controversial offer to run as an opposition candidate in the July 30 by-elections.

Ki Dong-min’s decision to run for parliament in the Seoul Dongjak-B constituency intensified the ongoing in-house feud in the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy over whom to select as the party’s Dongjak candidate.

Senior NPAD officials have picked Ki over Heo Dong-jun, a veteran local party official who fiercely contests the decision.

The contentious nomination has divided opposition officials. Some support the leadership’s decision to appoint Ki. Others sympathize with Heo and are critical of cochairs Reps. Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Han-gil, saying the decision was biased and unfair.
New Politics Alliance for Democracy member Heo Dong-jun (center) protests Ki Dong-min’s nomination for Seoul’s Dongjak-B constituency at the National Assembly on Tuesday. (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

Heo is protesting Ki’s nomination after being passed over as a parliamentary candidate three times since 2000.

“There is no party mechanism guaranteeing my natural right to petition the leadership’s unilateral decision.”

Heo began a sit-in at the party chairman’s office last Friday. Heo’s campaign staff have also gathered online signatures supporting the 45-year-old’s nomination. More than 30 NPAD lawmakers have signed the petition asking party leaders to rethink Ki’s candidacy.

Complicating the dispute is the 23-year personal relationship between Heo and Ki. The two politicians are both former student activists who served as aides to Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and the late Kim Keun-tae, a former activist and presidential candidate.

Ki and Heo met on Sunday and again earlier Monday to “discuss the situation,” according to Heo. “I firmly believe Ki accepted the leadership’s decision begrudgingly,” he added.

Heo said he will continue to appeal the party’s decision and talk to Ki.

Ki had originally applied to run in his hometown, Gwangju, South Jeolla Province. Ki himself was surprised, according to NPAD officials close to him, when the party appointed him as a candidate for Dongjak district.

Both are victims of the party’s nomination debacle, NPAD Rep. Jung Cheong-rae said.

On Monday morning, Ki held a press conference at the National Assembly pressroom to announce his bid to run. Five minutes later, Heo and his supporters rushed in, shouting slogans such as “no nomination without proper representation.”

Maintaining an apparently remorseful expression throughout the conference, Ki halted his speech halfway through as Heo grabbed the mic, yelling, “I cannot not accept this situation.”

Ki remained silent with eyes shut as camera flashes went off. Heo meanwhile told reporters that this was not a dispute between Ki and himself.

“This is a protest against the party’s unfair and unilateral decision-making process.”

Seoul’s Dongjak-B constituency is considered strategically important to both the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition. The district’s parliamentary seat is not only in the heart of Seoul but is Saenuri Party politician Chung Mong-joon’s former district. Chung, a seven-term lawmaker and former presidential candidate, left the National Assembly to run in the Seoul mayoral race last month.

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)

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