Former leader of the People’s Party Ahn Cheol-soo took up an official post in the Bareun Future Party on Friday, adding weight to speculation he may run for Seoul mayor in the local elections in June.
Ahn stepped down from the leadership when the People’s Party merged with the Bareun Party a month ago to form the Bareun Future Party.
The new party’s co-leaders Yoo Seong-min and Park Joo-sun have asked Ahn to run for Seoul mayor, hoping he will save the party from single-digit support ratings. Ahn has yet to answer the call.
Ahn Cheol-soo (Yonhap)
However, Ahn agreed to head the party’s talent recruiting committee, which many see as a step closer to announcing his candidacy for the mayoral election.
As head of the committee, Ahn will scout for contenders to field as candidates in local elections, and attend the party’s supreme council meetings.
If he does decide to run, it will likely be a three-way race with incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and a contender from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party.
The Liberty Korea Party has asked Lee Seog-yeon, a lawyer-turned-civic activist, to run as its candidate for Seoul mayor. He served as minister of government legislation during the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Lee said he was seriously considering the party’s proposal, as he wishes to play a role in “rebuilding reasonable centrist and conservative forces.” He said he would make a decision early next week.
If he accepts the offer, the Liberty Korea Party plans to nominate him without a primary.
Liberty Korea Party leader Hong Joon-pyo, who made the offer to Lee, said Lee knew Mayor Park better than anyone, as they both worked with the Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice, a nongovernmental organization. Park gained fame as a human rights lawyer and civic activist before becoming Seoul mayor in 2011.
“It will be a big match,” Hong told reporters Thursday.
“If Ahn Cheol-soo runs for Seoul mayor, he will come in third place. He can’t run. It would be political self-destruction.”
Park Won-soon, who is leading in polls, has begun taking steps to run for a third term.
Vice Mayor for Political Affairs Kim Jong-wook and several other city officials are to resign by the end of this month to join Park’s election camp, as civil servants are barred from participation in election campaigns.
Park is expected to officially announce his candidacy around mid-April after other competitors within the party have done so.
The Democratic Party’s Rep. Woo Sang-ho declared last weekend that he would run for Seoul mayor. Another Democratic Party legislator, Park Young-sun, is scheduled to announce her run for mayor and campaign pledges this Sunday.
Former lawmaker Chung Bong-ju, who has been accused of sexual harassment, is also seeking to run for Seoul mayor on the ruling party’s ticket.
By Kim So-hyun (email@example.com)