Ru­mors swirl over next pres­i­den­tial race

The Korea Times - - ELECTIONS - By Choi Ha-young hay­oung.choi@ko­re­atimes.co.kr

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.

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