The parties have finished candidate selection for the July 30 by-elections, with major players to compete in strategic constituencies.
In the upcoming elections, 15 parliamentary seats will be contested for, making it the largest set of by-elections to be held to date.
For the ruling Saenuri Party, success in the by-elections is needed to ensure it keeps its majority in the National Assembly. At present, the ruling party holds 147 of the 300 assembly seats. The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy holds 126.
For the NPAD, the upcoming elections will test its mettle in competing against the conservatives without an alliance with the progressives. When alliances are formed, a tactic often used by opposition parties, one opposition candidate runs in each constituency to avoid splitting the progressive vote.
The NPAD picked Sohn Hak-kyu for the Suwon-C constituency and former South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Kim Doo-kwan for Gimpo, Gyeonggi Province, both of which seats were once occupied by Saenuri Party lawmakers.
Sohn is a former lawmaker with four terms under his belt. He has served as the Gyeonggi Province governor, opposition party leader and welfare minister.
Other notable NPAD candidates include former police officer Kwon Eun-hee, who will run for Gwangju’s Gwangsan-B constituency.
Kwon shot to fame when she accused ranking officers of interfering in her investigation into the National Intelligence Agency’s alleged attempt to influence the 2012 presidential election.
For Seoul’s Dongjak-B constituency, to which some big names had been linked, the NPAD picked former Vice Seoul Mayor Ki Dong-min, which sparked off short-lived but intense friction among party members.
Ki will be facing the Saenuri Party’s Na Kyung-won, a former lawmaker and onetime Seoul mayor candidate, for the seat left open by the ruling party’s Chung Mong-joon.
Just as the NPAD is fielding heavyweights in areas previously held by conservatives, the ruling party has picked a major player to run for the Suncheon-Gokseong constituency in South Jeolla Province, a longtime progressive stronghold.
For the constituency, the Saenuri Party picked President Park Geun-hye’s former public relations secretary Lee Jung-hyun to run against Suh Gab-won, a former lawmaker and aide to President Roh Moo-hyun.
Along with the two main parties, the minor opposition Justice Party has also brought out some of its best-known names for the by-elections.
Justice Party candidates include its former leader Roh Hoe-chan and current leader Chun Ho-sun.
Roh will be going up against NPAD’s Ki and Saenuri Party’s Na in Dongjak-B. Chun will be competing with Yim Tae-hee, former chief of staff to former President Lee Myung-bak, and former NPAD spokesman Park Gwang-on for the Suwon-D constituency.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)