Support for DUP in Busan worries Saenuri Party

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Support for DUP in Busan worries Saenuri Party

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Potential candidates for the opposition Democratic United Party are riding high in the polls in Busan ahead of the general elections in April.

That has the ruling Saenuri Party running scared because Busan is its traditional stronghold. They fear it’s a sign of rising opposition popularity in its other strongholds like South Gyeongsang.

In a survey conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo and private research firm Embrain between Tuesday and Friday of 500 male and female adults in each district through random fixed-line and mobile numbers, the poll found Moon Jae-in, a senior advisor of the DUP, supported by 42.3 percent of likely voters in Sasang District, western Busan. Kwon Chul-hyeon, a former ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker, received 34.7 percent of the votes.

Moon Sung-keun, a member of the DUP’s Supreme Council, was supported by 41.9 percent of the respondents in Gangseo B District, western Busan, a wide lead over the 32.5 percent for likely ruling party candidate Huh Tae-yeol.

The southeastern port city of Busan is a stronghold of the ruling, conservative party along with regions in South Gyeongsang.

The ruling party is focusing on defeating Moon Jae-in. Although election history shows rare victories for liberal candidates in Busan, Moon was born in Geoje Island, located nearby, and worked as a local labor lawyer in the city during the democratization movement of the 1980s with the late President Roh Moo-hyun.

As a close aide to Roh, Moon currently chairs the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation, and a book he recently published about Roh, his relationship with the late president and their labor advocate activities in Busan became a best-seller.

In recent other polls, Moon’s popularity is soaring, especially among young voters. In one recent poll, his popularity was higher than that of Park Geun-hye, the interim head of the Saenuri Party. In some polls, his popularity was higher than that of software mogul and liberal darling Ahn Cheol-soo.

“People used to only vote for candidates from Grand National Party [the previous name of the Saenuri Party] even if they were abnormal,” Kim Mun-sik, 56-year-old Busan taxi driver, told the JoongAng Ilbo. “But these days, people are talking a lot about Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo.”

The ruling party is worried that a liberal elected in Busan could rise as the frontrunner for the presidential election in December.

“We are wondering whether to select a high-profile figure to combat Moon or a local high-ranking official well-known in the region,” a Saenuri Party official told the JoongAng Ilbo yesterday. “Sasang District is one of our important target places which we shouldn’t lose, but we are still pondering selecting the right candidate.”

Sources say some ruling party lawmakers are considering Moon Dae-sung, a former taekwondo athlete who won a gold medal at the Olympics in Athens in 2004, to take on Moon. The party thinks the life story of the sportsman, who overcame poverty in his youth to become a professor at Dong-A University in Busan, could appeal to ordinary voters.

In Gimhae B District, South Gyeongsang, Kim Gyeong-su, a senior director of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation, also received 40.9 percent support in the poll, beating out 34 percent for the Saenuri Party’s Kim Tae-ho, who was born in the province.

Analysts said the poll was based on the assumption that the voters will have a choice among three candidates, including those of the Unified Progressive Party.

Among five electoral districts in Seoul where the telephone poll was conducted, the opposition Democratic United Party prevailed in Jongno, Dobong A and Dongjak B.

The ruling Saenuri Party led in Eunpyeong B and Seodaemun B.

Political analysts say that once liberal parties manage to unite in backing candidates, they appear to have a higher chance of winning the general election.


By Kim Hee-jin, Shin Chang-woon [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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