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[Newsmaker] Saenuri picks Suh as by-election candidate

Internal conflict within the ruling Saenuri Party is escalating over its choice for a candidate in the upcoming parliamentary by-election. 

On Thursday evening, Saenuri picked Suh Chung-won, its former chairman and President Park Geun-hye’s longtime confidant, as the party’s candidate for the Oct. 30 election.

The announcement came a day after the 70-year-old politician declared his candidacy bid “for the success of the Park Geun-hye government.”

The return of the former six-term lawmaker, however, has sparked opposition from young lawmakers in the ruling party.

Citing his history of corruption, a group of young Saenuri lawmakers claimed that he should not become the party’s candidate. 

Suh Chung-won. (Yonhap News)
Suh Chung-won. (Yonhap News)
“We have vowed to the people to exclude candidates convicted of (any of) four (major) crimes ― sexual crimes, bribery, illegal political funding and election rigging ― from the nomination screening process,” a group of young Saenuri lawmakers said. “We cannot help but express regrets over recent moves involving the nomination process.”

The statement came after rumors surfaced of President Park requesting the party’s screening committee to nominate Suh for the Hwaseong-A constituency in Gyeonggi Province.

President Park reportedly sent a message to the party that she wanted Suh to represent the party in the election. Both Saenuri and Cheong Wa Dae denied the report.

Park and Suh are known to have built a close relationship over the years.

Suh led the Grand National Party, now Saenuri, in 2002 and was one of the “Pro-Park” figures who helped Park expand her influence over the years.

The former ruling party leader helped Park win a parliamentary seat in Dalseong district, Daegu, in 1998 and played a center role in setting up a Pro-Park Geun-hye Alliance in 2008.

Suh’s political career, however, was tarnished by convictions of corruption. He was jailed for receiving illegal donations in 2002 and 2008.

Kim Sung-hoi, who competed with Suh for the party’s nomination, had said earlier that he will run the by-election as an independent if the party chooses Suh over him. Kim is a former lawmaker who represented Hwaseong A district between 2008 and 2012, while Suh has no connection with the region.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)
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