For Gangwon governor hopefuls, race is now on

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For Gangwon governor hopefuls, race is now on

The battle to claim Gangwon’s governorship in an April by-election is heating up as political parties search for candidates to win the post made vacant by the Supreme Court’s conviction against Lee Kwang-jae.

Only seven months after his election to the post, the Democratic Party governor was found guilty of receiving bribes.

The highest court’s ruling on Thursday not only kicked him out of the post but barred him from running in an election for the next 10 years, effectively ending his political life.

The ruling Grand National Party, which lost the position in last June’s election, said it will hold a primary to find the best candidate for the Apr. 27 by-election.

According to Representative Hwang Young-cheul, head of the GNP’s Gangwon chapter, the ruling party’s leadership will create a nomination committee after the Lunar New Year holidays and then begin the candidate recruiting process.

“When multiple candidates apply, we will hold a primary,” he said.

He pledged that the primary will be held in a fair manner, adding that “the door is open to all candidates.”

Expectations were high that Ohm Ki-young, former president of Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, will join the race.

Ohm moved his residential address to Chuncheon, Gangwon, last year, fueling speculation about his political aspiration in the province.

He has been increasingly working with the province after his appointment as vice chairman of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee.

Last year, Ohm stepped down from the MBC presidency to protest the broadcaster’s appointing of key executives not recommended by him.

In an interview with KBS radio, GNP spokesman Ahn Hyoung-hwan said yesterday that the party is aware of the speculation surrounding Ohm.

“Whether Ohm will join our primary or not isn’t something I can discuss right now,” Ahn said. “But we believe Ohm is a great man with a determination to work hard for his hometown. Ohm can apply for a nomination once the committee is formed.”

Representative Lee Ke-jin, the GNP candidate who lost to Lee Kwang-jae in June, was also expected to join the race.

He won 46.16 percent of the votes at the time, while the DP’s Lee won 53.83 percent.

After its political heavyweight lost the governorship, the Democratic Party appeared to be blindsided in Gangwon.

“I don’t think the leadership has a clear plan right now,” said Representative Choi Chong-won, head of the DP’s Gangwon Provincial chapter, in an interview with YTN radio yesterday.

“We have never thought about the possibility of Lee Kwang-jae’s being convicted, so we didn’t prepare for the situation.” Choi admitted that an electoral partnership with smaller opposition parties to field a single candidate against the GNP will be necessary.

The strategy proved very effective in last June’s local elections. Lee’s victory in Gangwon was in partnership with other opposition parties.

Representative Choi Moon-soon and former Deputy Prime Minister Kwon O-kyu, whose hometowns are in Gangwon, have been talked about as possible opposition candidates.


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

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