Prominent politicians to fight over Dongjak B

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Prominent politicians to fight over Dongjak B

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Seoul’s Dongjak B district, which was previously held by former seven-term lawmaker Chung Mong-joon, has emerged as an electoral battleground for political heavyweights in the lead-up to the July 30 by-election.

The district is now vacant after Chung gave up his National Assembly badge to run in the Seoul mayoral election, in which he was defeated by incumbent Mayor Park Won-soon of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy.

Figures from the ruling Saenuri Party said to be preparing to compete in the race include former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon, outgoing Gyeonggi governor Kim Moon-soo and ex-lawmakers Na Kyung-won and Lee Hye-hoon.

Adding to the prospect of an intense competition for the nomination by the ruling party, Lee Jung-hyun, the longtime aide to President Park Geun-hye who recently resigned from his position as presidential press secretary, is said to be contemplating putting his hat in the ring for the Dongjak-B race.

The opposition NPAD also has high-profile figures who want to run for Dongjak-B, including Chung Dong-young, the opposition party’s 2007 presidential candidate. In addition, Chun Jung-bae, an ex-Justice Minister in the Roh Moo-hyun government, and former South Gyeongsang governor Kim Du-kwan are believed to be interested in contending in the by-election.

Kim Hyun-chul, the second son of former President Kim Young-sam, who was once nicknamed “junior president” for the influence he wielded when his father was in office, declared his bid to run in the Dongjak-B election as an NPAD candidate too, underscoring the crowd of aspirants paying attention to the district.

The 55-year-old Kim left the Saenuri in 2012 when he did not receive a party nomination for the general election. He later endorsed Moon Jae-in in the presidential elections that same year.

One reason Dongjak is considered an attractive electoral race for a political figure to win is because it is the only district in Seoul that will be contested in the by-election next month. And winning a district in the capital carries much more political significance in terms of gaining media and public attention than in the rest of the country.

“Winning a race in Seoul draws much media attention,” said a lawmaker of the NPAD.

“If you win a second term as a lawmaker to represent a Seoul district, then you will become a nationally known politician, a feat that is hard to achieve by winning in a race outside of Seoul.”

Suh Gab-won, a former opposition lawmaker, also believes that Dongjak District appeals to many high-profile figures because it is located in Seoul.

“Those who dream big of taking the Blue House or plan to return to the political arena much prefer to represent a Seoul district for the significance a victory there carries,” said Suh.

Another reason for the interest in Dongjak is because it is not as heavily influenced by a particular party as other Seoul districts like Gangam or Seocho, which lean heavily on the ruling Saenuri, raising hopes of a victory for both the ruling and opposition parties. Dongjak’s geopolitical location attests to such a characteristic. It sits with Seocho District, a traditional Saenuri stronghold, to its right, and Gwanak District, which has long backed the opposition, to its left.

Though the district was represented by former lawmaker Chung Mong-joon of the Saenuri for six years from 2008 until last April, when Chung stepped down, Park Won-soon received more votes from Dongjak District than Chung in the local election.

BY YOO SUNG-WOON, KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr ]

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