With less than eight months left until the presidential election on March 9, 2022, over a dozen people are weighing their chances at presidency in the conservative arena that no longer has major factions after two former presidents have been jailed.
The establishment within the main conservative party broke down with the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye and the party’s crushing defeat in the parliamentary election last year, giving way to new faces such as an ex-prosecutor general and an ex-chief state auditor who has clashed with those in the Moon Jae-in administration.
On Monday, former Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon dropped hints about his potential run for president, saying it is his “duty” as someone who has been in public service for 34 years and received state benefits to devote himself if there is something he should do for the country.
In his book published on Monday, titled “Breaking Korea’s Taboos,” Kim stressed that the country should break its “winner-takes-all” system, and offer more opportunities, instead of cash, for welfare.
Asked during a radio interview Monday morning whether he was ready to devote himself if society demands him to realize those dreams, Kim answered, “Of course I should.”
About his potential run outside the two major parties, he said political powers must “put down their vested rights and change completely.”
“People who agree to replacing the political and decision-making powers must join forces,” Kim added.
On how widely the government’s COVID-19 relief should be paid out, the ex-finance minister said it should be given sufficiently to those in need.
“Many people say (the crisis relief) should be given to stimulate the economy, but such effect won’t be big,” he said.
Kim had stepped down as finance minister during the Moon administration after his idea that minimum wages should be raised more gradually was not accepted.
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who has been leading presidential preference polls for months, also rose as the opposition’s big shot as he defied the justice minister over the Moon administration’s prosecutorial reform plans.
Yoon signed himself up as a preliminary presidential candidate with the nation’s election watchdog last week, but appears unwilling to join the main opposition People Power Party.
Choe Jae-hyeong also quit as chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection in late June, six months before his term ends. He had clashed with Moon’s office over the board’s audit into a government decision to shut down the country’s second-oldest nuclear reactor earlier than scheduled.
Choe joined the PPP last week in an apparent step toward running on the opposition party’s ticket.
Yoo Seung-min, a former legislator and economist vying for the PPP’s presidential candidacy, said on Monday that the next government shouldn’t be a “past-oriented” one that “cleans up the evils of the Moon administration for five years.“
“People who did law cannot help being buried in the past,” Yoo said in a radio interview, referring to former prosecutor Yoon and former judge Choe.
“The next president should be someone focused on ‘how should we resurrect this country after COVID-19,’ ‘how can we prop up the economy.’ We can’t be going on war of vengeance for five years.”
He also went on to say that media attention on Yoon and Choe was only “a new-item phenomenon” and that interest would soon wane.
“As time goes, they will be unveiled, and begin to let people know of their visions, philosophy and policies. Then the real competition will start,” he said.
The latest presidential preference poll showed that while Yoon and Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party continue to lead with 30.3 percent and 25.4 percent, respectively, support for No. 3, former DP leader Lee Nak-yon, inched up to 19.3 percent.
In a poll conducted last Friday and Saturday by the Korea Society Opinion Institute, support for Choe also jumped 3.1 percentage points from a week ago to 5.6 percent, putting him at No. 4 on the list.
By Kim So-hyun (firstname.lastname@example.org