Rumors swirl over next presidential race
The latest elections to pick mayors and governors have provided a foothold for politicians to consolidate their popularity and awareness — especially for any presidential hopefuls.
Most of them are liberals, given the overwhelming popularity of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), boosted by the diplomatic achievements of President Moon Jae-in.
Park Won-soon, 62, the incumbent Seoul mayor who easily won re-election, has potential as a presidential candidate. Following his victory in the mayoral election, Wednesday, he became Seoul’s first-ever three-term mayor.
Park considered running for president in 2017 as a nominee of the DPK, which ended in failure amid his meager popularity. However, he may not have given up on his ambition.
Right after Moon’s victory was confirmed on May 10, 2017, Park took to the stage in Gwanghwamun Square, central Seoul, and said: “I will work hard for the next five years, and will succeed the Moon administration. Please stay with me.”
A former human rights lawyer, Park built a reputation as a founding member of the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, the nation’s largest civic organization. As a politi- cian, he has boasted a modest image with a soft voice.
In 2015, however, the mayor had a fiery showdown with then-President Park Geun-hye, over her lethargy in dealing with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) infections. Thanks to the mayor’s proactive handling of the respiratory disease — boldly breaking away from Cheong Wa Dae’s control — he briefly topped popularity polls for future president.
Another notable politician is Lee Jae-myung, 53, who won the Gyeonggi gubernatorial election. The former Seongnam mayor is known for his eventful life path — from a factory worker to presidential hopeful.
In the 2016 presidential race, he took the third and last place in the DPK’s primary, with support of 21.2 percent. Still, the outcome bewildered rival hopefuls. People rarely expected considerable support for Lee, who has a meager support base within the party.
Now Lee has made news for an alleged love affair with actress Kim Bu-seon. Kim appeared in a televised interview with KBS, Sunday, claiming Lee pretended to be divorced when they got together in 2007.
Former lawmaker Kim Kyoung-soo, who won the South Gyeongsang governor’s post, is also being considered, but as a dark horse for the future presidential race.