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Parties target tough constituencies

DP lawmakers eye GNP home turf; ruling party mulls replacing veterans

Parties are seeking to turn the table in next year’s general elections with a bold lineup of possible candidates as some veteran lawmakers gave up their candidacy or pledged to run in strategically important areas other than their home-turf constituencies.

Rep. Kim Hyo-seuk, a third-term lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party, pledged Sunday to challenge candidacy in Seoul or Gyeonggi, instead of his years-long constituency in South Jeolla Province.

“I could not ignore the obvious fight which is expected in the metropolitan area over next year’s election,” Kim said. “I also felt that it was for the best interest of my hometown that I should give way to new local figures.”

DP Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu welcomed the senior lawmaker’s decision. “Rep. Kim boldly decided to extend his horizons,” Sohn said.

Rep. Sohn himself moved his residency to Bundang in order to challenge the lawmaker seat in the April by-election as he was regarded the only option to match Rep. Kang Jae-sup, the ruling party’s former chairman.

The DP leader also underlined the significance of the upcoming general elections.

“Next year’s election will be a touchstone for the presidential race, reflecting the public’s choice in advance,” Sohn said.

Kim is not the only one to break away from a favorable constituency for the sake of bigger causes.

Rep. Kim Boo-kyum, one of Sohn’s closest aides, hinted that he may run in his hometown Daegu, instead of his constituency in Gunpo, Gyeonggi Province, should it be necessary for the party.

Some of the party’s proportional representatives, such as Song Min-soon and Jeon Hyun-heui, are also considering challenging their hometown constituency in Gyeongsang provinces, according to party officials.

Through these shifts of constituency allocation, the DP is largely seeking to give up its advantage in Jeolla or southwestern parts of the nation and to challenge new opportunities in Gyeongsang or southeastern regions. The party also expressed its will to safeguard Seoul and Gyeonggi Province, two strategic points which may sway the presidential race.

Such moves came in response to the ruling party’s recent momentum in self-renewal.

The ruling Grand National Party, which realigned itself last week under the leadership of the newly-elected chairman Rep. Hong Joon-pyo, is vowing to promote people-friendly policies and to win back the public’s support.

In order to stand up to the GNP, the DP not only had to make a direct breakthrough in central and Gyeongsang regions but also had to give up some of its vested rights in order to win over other minor parties, observers said.

For similar reasons, voices are also rising within the GNP that some of the senior Gyeongsang lawmakers should be replaced by new figures.

Such current mainly targets Rep. Kim Hyong-o, fifth-time elected and former parliamentary spokesperson, as well as sixth-term lawmakers Lee Sang-deuk and Hong Sa-duk. The three are respectively based in Busan, Pohang and Daegu, all southeastern regions.

On the other hand, Rep. Won Hee-ryong, a member of the party’s Supreme Council, earlier announced the renunciation of his candidacy, when he ran for the chairman with a pledge to focus on his in-party position.

Chairman Hong, however, demanded that party members refrain from making direct statements over the general election candidacy and the party nomination.

“Too much focus on the party nomination may hinder the progress of other pending issues and policies,” he said.

“The candidacy lineup may wait until next January until this year’s regular sessions are over.”

This is not the first time parties attempted to reshuffle their member composition and seek overall renovation.

In the 18th general elections back in 2008, 48 percent of the then incumbent GNP lawmakers failed to win the candidacy, for which Rep. Kang Jae-sup, who was then party chairman, also had to give up his own candidacy to take responsibility.

The DP also ruled out Rep. Kim Hong-up, son of former President Kim Dae-jung, and other standing powers from candidate nomination to renew the party’s public image.

Some experts, however, expressed concerns over the political circles’ excessive exclusion of senior lawmakers and urged for balance between old and new.

By Bae Hyun-jung (