Roh aide knocks DP candidate out of race

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Roh aide knocks DP candidate out of race

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Rhyu Si-min, right, waves to supporters yesterday after he defeated Kim Jin-pyo, left, to run for Gyeonggi governor. [NEWSIS]

Rhyu Si-min, one of the closest confidants of the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, was selected yesterday by the liberal opposition parties to run for governor of Gyeonggi against incumbent Kim Moon-su of the Grand National Party in June.

For the nomination, Rhyu, former welfare minister in the Roh administration, competed against Kim Jin-pyo, who served as Roh’s finance minister and education minister. While Kim represented the Democratic Party, Rhyu is part of the People’s Participation Party, formed by Roh loyalists who bolted from the Democratic Party in January.

Rhyu’s victory signifies the rise of Roh loyalists within the united opposition ahead of the June 2 local elections and is a setback to the Democratic Party and its current leadership. The largest opposition party, with more than 300,000 members in Gyeonggi, lost the candidacy to a minority splinter party with about 8,000 members in the region. The People’s Participation Party is only four months old, with no sitting lawmakers. The Democratic Party has 88 members in the National Assembly.

In the neck-and-neck race, Rhyu won 50.48 percent of the votes, while Kim won 49.52 percent.

“Nothing is impossible when the opposition parties unite,” Rhyu said as he accepted the nomination. “In this election, the people will judge the Lee Myung-bak administration’s incompetence and despotism.”

Kim accepted defeat and promised support for Rhyu. “The best way for a victory in the local elections would have been the merger of the Democratic Party and the People’s Participation Party,” Kim said. “The completion of the merger won’t be possible before the elections, but I hope Rhyu will declare his agreement for the merger.”

Democratic Party Chairman Chung Sye-kyun also promised his party’s backing for Rhyu’s campaign.

In Seoul, the Democratic Party’s Han Myeong-sook, former prime minister in the Roh government, is running against incumbent Grand National mayor Oh Se-hoon.

Democratic Party Representative Lee Kwang-jae, former presidential secretary for information and policy monitoring in the Roh Blue House, is running for Gangwon governor. Ahn Hee-jung, another Roh confidant, is the DP’s candidate for South Chungcheong governor.

In South Gyeongsang, Kim Du-kwan, former home minister of the Roh government, is running for the governor post as an independent.

The Roh confidants are expected to campaign on the memory of the late former president. Roh killed himself on May 23, 2009, shortly after being investigated for corruption.

As the first anniversary of his death falls on the eve of the June 2 elections, sympathy for Roh may be an important factor in the elections. The Grand Nationals, however, downplayed the significance of Roh loyalists’ political comebacks.

A spokesman of Gyeonggi Governor Kim, who is seeking re-election, sneered at the opposition parties’ selection of Rhyu. “Rhyu is like a migratory bird who moves from election to election,” said Choi Wu-yeong, spokesman for Kim’s camp. “He does not work, but only talks.”

“The nation suffered pain during the five years of the Roh administration,” Rep. Ahn Hyoung-hwan, spokesman of the GNP campaign headquarters, said. “The local elections must be a choice for the future. We should never allow politicians from the past to come back with new masks on their faces.”

Candidate registration for the June elections began yesterday.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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