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Saenuri outlines runners, sidesteps controversy

The ruling conservative Saenuri Party on Thursday outlined its list of candidates for the forthcoming April 13 general elections, but decided to shelve the qualification of controversial figures.

In clear contrast to The Minjoo Party of Korea and its drastic housecleaning actions, none of the incumbent Saenuri lawmakers were eliminated in the preliminary round screening, though some will face a local primary.

Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, chairman of the candidate recommendation committee, announced that the party will hold primaries in another 31 constituencies, including six in Seoul, two in Busan, and two in Daejeon.

But the committee deferred its final decision on Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun, who recently caused a stir within the party for directing coarse remarks toward party leader Rep. Kim Moo-sung.

Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, the ruling Saenuri Party's candidate recommendation committee chairman. Yonhap
Rep. Lee Hahn-koo, the ruling Saenuri Party's candidate recommendation committee chairman. Yonhap

“(Yoon‘s issue) may have to be submitted to the party’s ethics committee so we had to hold his candidacy until further decisions,” Lee said.

The Incheon lawmaker has recently turned the party upside down after a phone conversation recording revealed him as saying “Kill Kim. He should totally be ruled out of nominations.”

Yoon immediately explained that he had been intoxicated at the time and offered his apologies to the party chief, but Kim has remained furious over the profanity.

When the party’s Supreme Council decided to summon Yoon for questioning on Thursday, Kim stormed out of the meeting room in a stern refusal to face the foulmouthed member.

But the party’s ethics committee chief Rep. Yeo Sang-kyoo suggested that Kim let go of the issue.

“I don‘t see this conflict as the kind that should be brought up to the ethics committee,” he said in a radio interview.

“It would be best if Kim, who may be seen as the victim here, to overlook the issue.”

The Yoon-Kim collision, which on the surface seemed to be a discord over election candidacy, in fact traced back to the chronic enmity between those close to President Park Geun-hye and the non-mainstreamers flocking around party chief Kim.

The nomination committee, seen as a pro-Park clique, suggested to classify former government officials as election rookies and assign extra credits to them. But Kim lashed back, taking the plan as a political move to unduly favor presidential aides.

The committee also put off its candidacy decision for Kim, who has been embroiled in accusations that he drafted a black list concerning the party’s candidate selection.

Rep. Chung Doo-un last month asserted on the existence of the contended list, containing the names of some 40 incumbent lawmakers to be excluded from party nomination.

“Chairman Kim has said that he is ready to participate in a regional primary (for his candidacy in Busan),” said nomination chief Lee.

“But we asked for his understanding (for withholding the candidacy decision) as the disputed rumors have not yet been cleared.”

Speculations also rose that the survival of incumbent lawmakers was an attempt to persuade the public that the suspected list never existed, just as Kim claimed.

Meanwhile, the ruling party added momentum in recruiting new figures for the April race, including renowned Go, or baduk, player Cho Hoon-hyun who signed in on Thursday to bid for the party’s proportional representative position.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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