Saenuri primary candidates cool off

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Saenuri primary candidates cool off

An escalating feud among three candidates seeking to win the Saenuri Party nomination in the Seoul mayoral race seemed to have cooled down yesterday as former Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik resumed his campaign following a three-day boycott.

But despite Kim’s return, fighting words among the three frontrunners, especially between Chung Mong-joon and Kim, may still potentially fly in the hard-fought race to challenge incumbent Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, a member of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD).

The 66-year-old contender suspended his campaign for three days starting last Friday in protest of what he considered the party’s unfair treatment toward him. Negative campaigning from his two competitors, namely seven-term lawmaker Chung, is also thought to have upset Kim, who warned the party that he might withdraw from the race if it did not take corrective measures.

The former prime minister visited the party headquarters yesterday in Yeouido, western Seoul, and met with Saenuri Chairman Hwang Woo-yea, expressing his desire to remain in the primary to face off with Chung and former two-term lawmaker Lee Hye-hoon.

“I am sorry that I worried the party [because of my decision to suspend the campaign],” Kim said, adding that he will complete the race.

However, his remarks in a radio interview with SBS early yesterday indicated he still was not happy with how the Saenuri was running its primary and his two rivals, signaling that further disputes could still arise. “My rival candidate accused me of something that I have never done to put me on the defensive. I understand all of this is done because it’s election time. But I do think it is regrettable how I have been treated [in the race],” Kim said.

Reflective of the competition between Chung and Kim, the two traded jabs Sunday over campaign financing, accusing each other of spending massive amounts of money to ensure a victory in the June local elections.

Early Sunday, Kim’s camp claimed that Hyundai Heavy Industries - of which Chung is the controlling shareholder with 7.7 million shares - spent nearly 10 billion won ($9.3 million) in advertisements and television commercials over a three-month period from November through February this year in an effort to boost Chung’s image.

Chung’s camp said the accusation was out of line and demanded Kim reveal the source of his campaign funds. Growing tensions between the two prompted the ruling party yesterday to declare that it would sternly deal with negative campaigning in the primary.

Meanwhile, the three primary candidates yesterday unveiled a set of campaign promises - a move interpreted as their attempts to distance themselves from negative campaigning a month before the party’s nomination vote on April 30.

Kim pledged to ease regulations on apartment-rebuilding projects to provide more household space for Seoul residents. Chung also offered up election promises, mainly promising to improve competition in northern Seoul by building social and cultural infrastructure there. He also once again made it clear during a press briefing yesterday at the Korea Federation of SMEs in Yeouido that he will seek to revive the now-defunct 31 trillion won Yongsan development project.

Lee Hye-hoon announced a set of pledges aimed at women, including a promise to designate women-only train cars on Seoul metro trains.

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


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