Chung on top of presidential hopefuls for 2017

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Chung on top of presidential hopefuls for 2017

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As political heavyweights gear up for June 4 local elections, a major change in the approval ratings for potential presidential candidates in 2017 has taken place, a poll by private researcher Realmeter showed.

Seven-term lawmaker Chung Mong-joon of the Saenuri Party, the National Assembly’s richest lawmaker with more than 1.9 trillion won ($1.7 billion) in assets, came out on top with an approval rating of 18.8 percent.

Popular maverick lawmaker Ahn Cheol-soo trailed Chung with 17.1 percent, which is within the plus or minus 2 percent margin of error.

Representative Moon Jae-in, the 2012 Democratic Party presidential candidate who was defeated by Park Geun-hye with a margin of 3.6 percent, received an 11.4 percent approval rating, while Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon received 8.9 percent.

Kim Moo-sung of the ruling Saenuri Party, a presidential hopeful who represents a district in Busan, received an 8 percent rating.

The poll released Monday is sure to boost Chung’s ambition to run. Chung unsuccessfully ran for the country’s highest office in 2002 on the back of a successful hosting of the 2002 Korea-Japan World Cup as chairman of the Korea Football Association.

Chung, a son of Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung and the controlling shareholder of the Hyundai Heavy Industries Group, is running for the Saenuri’s candidacy in the Seoul mayoral election in June.

Though he said on March 2 that he intends to complete his four-year mayoral term if he wins the race, it is widely speculated that the veteran lawmaker would actually use the mayoralty as a springboard to run for president in 2017.

The latest poll represents a tumble for businessman turned lawmaker Ahn, who remained on top of the weekly approval ratings since last April.

“Since he declared his bid for the mayoralty, Chung was cast under an intense media spotlight and that led to an increase in his popularity as a presidential hopeful,” said Yoon Hee-sang, director of the public research team at Min Consulting, a political consulting group.

“While the opposition has a number of high-profile presidential hopefuls, such as Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo, the Saenuri has fewer apparent potential candidates.”

Yoon said that Ahn’s dwindling popularity is a result of his decision to create a new party through a merger with the DP.

“People who didn’t like the DP but supported Ahn withdrew their support after the merger decision,” he said, “causing Ahn to suffer a drop in his approval rating.”

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]



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