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Moon’s minions scope out easy seats for upcoming polls

Jan 09,2020
Complaints are growing in the ruling party that too many former members of the Moon Jae-in Blue House are running in the April general election - many choosing easy districts.

With three months left before the April 15 general election, an increasing number of former secretaries to President Moon Jae-in are planning campaigns. “It is a fools’ march,” sneered Rep. Shim Jae-cheol, floor leader of the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP).

The controversy reached a peak after Youn Kun-young resigned Monday as director for the State Affairs Planning and Monitoring Office. “It will be my humble, yet passionate beginning [of a new career],” Youn wrote in a posting on Facebook Monday.

Many expect Youn, a longtime aide to Moon, to run in Guro B District of Seoul. That district has been represented by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) since 2000. It is currently the constituency of SMEs and Startup Minister Park Young-sun, who won three consecutive terms from there. On Friday, she announced she isn’t running.

“It is not acceptable that he [Youn] gets an easy district to walk a glory path through just because he was a former presidential aide,” a senior official of the DP told the JoongAng Ilbo.

Some said Youn should run in a district in Busan or South Gyeongsang or his hometown of Bucheon in Gyeonggi. “It is undesirable for a former Blue House aide to get an easy pass,” a DP lawmaker said Tuesday.

“If an easy district is vacant, there are already many contenders who have prepared campaigns for a long time,” said a first-term lawmaker of the DP. “He [Youn] must participate in a primary and go through the internal competition. If he is given a strategic nomination without a primary, there will be serious repercussions.”

The party is having trouble finding candidates for districts in which tough races are expected. Gwangjin B District in Seoul, currently represented by Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, is so far without a DP contender.

“The biggest dilemma for us in the capital region is who should run in Gwangjin B,” said a key DP official. “We need someone who can defeat former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon [of the LKP], but we don’t have a competitive politician. So we are still searching for one.”

The DP is also having a hard time finding candidates for Busan and South Gyeongsang races, where public sentiment has turned against the ruling party due to the various scandals surrounding the short-lived justice minister, Cho Kuk. Youn and other political rookies have been contacted, but all turned down pleas to run in those areas, sources told the JoongAng Ilbo.

The DP leadership asked Rep. Kim Du-kwan, a former South Gyeongsang governor who scored his first legislative victory in Gimpo A District of Gyeonggi in 2016, to change his district to Yangsan B District of South Gyeongsang. The district is a symbolic constituency, where Moon’s private residence is located.

DP leaders have urged former Blue House aides to run in competitive districts over the past months. Yang Jeong-cheol, one of the closest confidants of Moon and the director of the DP’s think tank Institute for Democracy, told lawmakers in November repeatedly that “they must not hope to benefit from their ties with the president.”

When Yang issued that warning, about 40 former Blue House aides were planning runs. That number has grown to 70.

“When the election nears, opposition parties often urge voters to pass judgment on the administration,” said a senior lawmaker of the DP. “If the party has many candidates who served in the Blue House, it raises its risk.”

BY SHIM SAE-ROM, SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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