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Second lawyer activist emerges ...in mayoral race

Lee hopes to stand for conservative bloc, including ruling party


The race for Seoul mayor by-election got a jolt as Lee Seog-yeon, a former minister of government legislation with long experience of civic activities, indicated his intention to run as a unified conservative candidate.

If he takes on Park Won-soon, who has emerged as the strongest possible candidate to represent all progressive groups, the by-election will become a rare ideological confrontation of two independents outside the political establishment.

“I told Rep. Joo Ho-young of the ruling Grand National Party that I could consider entering candidacy, assuming that it should be as sole candidate representing the ruling camp,” Lee said on Friday. Rep. Joo is in charge of searching the party candidate for the Oct. 26 by-election.

Lee, along with Public Administration and Security Minister Maeng Hyung-kyu, was one of the top non-partisan prospects eyed by the ruling party as a by-election candidate.

Party chairman Hong Joon-pyo said earlier that an administration veteran is required to take on Park, whose weakness is lack of administrative experience, according to party officials.
Former Minister of Government Legislation Lee Seog-yeon speaks Friday about his intention to run for Seoul mayor in the Oct. 26 by-election. (Yonhap News)
Former Minister of Government Legislation Lee Seog-yeon speaks Friday about his intention to run for Seoul mayor in the Oct. 26 by-election. (Yonhap News)

Lee also has a years-long career as a lawyer, working in conservative civic groups before joining the government as the legislation minister in 2008.

He gained the support of Seoul citizens back in 2004 as he filed a constitutional petition to block the government policy to move the capital’s government agencies to Sejong City in South Chungcheong Province, a de facto relocation of the capital, and won a favorable ruling from the Constitutional Court.

Should he be elected as the sole candidate representing the conservative bloc including the ruling party, the mayoral race is to be an unprecedented match between two top civic leaders, who respectively represent conservatives and liberals.

Both Lee and Park have a strong will to represent their camp as an independent non-partisan candidate.

“Neither the party nor I have anything to gain, should I join the GNP and take part in its internal race,” Lee said.

His potential rival Park also pledged not to join the main opposition Democratic Party, at least until the Oct. 26 by-election.

The GNP is considering selecting a unified candidate on Oct. 4 through a two-stage race, in which Lee is expected to compete against the candidate lawmaker selected in the internal race of the party.

“We are open to all possibilities and hope that Lee will consider joining the party’s internal race,” said the party’s secretary-general Kim Chung-kwon.

These developments reflect the parties’ concerns over the recent rise of non-partisan figures, such as Ahn Cheol-soo and Park, as alternatives to political parties which fell short of the public’s expectations.

Lee’s biggest challenge before running for the election, however, is likely to beat Rep. Na Kyung-won, who is considered the GNP’s ace card to stand against Park.

Though Na temporarily faltered amid in-party resistance to her candidacy and Park’s sudden and initial surge in popularity, she caught up with Park in most of the latest public polls this week.

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