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Seoul mayor hints at presidential bid

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon hinted at his bid for the presidency next year on an official visit to the U.S. this week.

“Korea is facing a very critical moment now. Considering the flexible political environment, I feel a strong responsibility (for the presidency),” Oh said Monday after delivering a lecture at Harvard University.

It was the first time the mayor has made public his intention to run for the nation’s top post.

After being re-elected in the June election last year, he had said he would complete his official term of four years as mayor.

Even though his lecture’s theme on the day was “Seoul 9 to 5 Creative Governance,” the question-and-answer session focused more on his future path and other political issues.

He renewed his criticism against free school meals as a populist policy of opposition parties.

“If we start to share, the nation’s economic potential and growth engine will lose momentum,” he said.

He also expressed his opinions on North Korean issues during a conversation with Joseph Nye, a prominent U.S. political analyst and professor at Harvard University on Tuesday.

“The current government’s aid-for-denuclearization program is somewhat rigid. Depending on the situation, we need to have strategic flexibility,” he said.

President Lee Myung-bak’s so-called “reform 3,000” policy indicates that the South will help raise the per capita income of North Korea to $3,000 within 10 years of denuclearization.

“It is important to keep principles. But in order to invite the North to the negotiating table we also need the engagement policy,” he said.

In the meeting with the Harvard professor, he asked for advice about Korea’s future relationship with the U.S. and China and welfare policy.

Oh also met Michael Porter, a Harvard professor of business administration, and delivered another lecture on the city development policy of “Design Seoul.”

Earlier in the day, Seoul City signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government of Massachusetts for partnership in the field of biotechnology and high technology.

A lecture in the U.S. has frequently been used as an opportunity for politicians to announce election plans.

During his eight-day stay there, Oh plans to meet influential figures such as Kurt M. Campbell, assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs in a move to strengthen his political status.

By Lee Ji-yoon (