Parties readying for June elections

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Parties readying for June elections

With local elections slated for June, both ruling and opposition parties are already in high gear, furiously signing up new members and getting candidates ready for the spring campaign.

The most notable movement is happening by officials in Gangwon, a region that has heavy support for the ruling Saenuri Party these days, as they resign their government posts to vie for elected positions.

Jang Cheol-kyu, the former director of the economic promotion bureau of the Gangwon Provincial Government, recently resigned his post and is reportedly eyeing a run for mayor of Sokcho, a small, tourism-focused city on the east coast, near the Demilitarized Zone.

Likewise, Lee Su-won, the former head of the Korean Intellectual Property Office, and Jeon Ju-su, former deputy mayor of Chuncheon, have both resigned their positions, joined the Saenuri Party and are planning to run for mayor of Chuncheon.

Another official, Han Bong-ki, former head of the administrative office, also has joined the Saenuri Party and plans to run as the head of Goseong County in South Gyeongsang.

The number of Saenuri Party members in North and South Gyeongsang, traditionally Saenuri strongholds, has reportedly increased by the thousands since the end of last year.

“As the election is important, there is a tendency for potential candidates in the elections to bring along their supporters to the party,” said one Saenuri member from North Gyeongsang.

The Saenuri Party’s South Gyeongsang branch had to hire extra part-time workers to handle the new membership applications, even though the region looks relatively quiet at the moment, save for a few candidates gearing up to run for mayor in Gimhae and Changwon.

“There is still time until a nomination screening committee is established around mid-February,” said one member of the South Gyeongsang branch of the Saenuri Party. “It appears that those planning to run are putting their efforts into building relations with party leaders who have key influence over the nominations.”

There are also similar preparations under way in the Honam region of North and South Jeolla, strongholds for the opposition Democratic Party.

Yu Gi-sang, the head of the general planning management office for the North Jeolla Provincial Government, is planning to run as head of Gochang County for the DP, and more than 10 senior-level provincial government officials are also said to be looking to run for office.

But the Honam region and the DP have one big unknown facing them - the new party being formed by former presidential contender and independent lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo.

Although there are few details available about Ahn’s new party, it already is leading the DP, according to a Gallup Korea poll conducted in the second week of January. In the poll, Ahn’s prospective party leads the DP in the Jeolla provinces 45 percent to 31 percent.

This comes after Yoon Yeo-joon, a senior politician and former environmental minister, joined the committee responsible for the creation of the new political party and was appointed as a co-head last week.

BY KWON HO, LEE SO-AH [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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