Politicians see new ground in Busan

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Politicians see new ground in Busan

Busan’s Gijang-A District has emerged as one of the most highly contested races to seize for the ruling Saenuri Party and the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy in the July 30 by-elections.

The district has had a vacancy for parliamentary representation since former Saenuri lawmaker Suh Byung-soo gave up his Assembly status to run in the mayoral election on June 4, which he won by a slim margin.

So far, 12 aspiring politicians from across the party lines have formally launched their bids to represent the district in the country’s second-largest city. Underscoring the popularity the district holds for political hopefuls, four former Saenuri lawmakers declared their intention to join the race.

Former three-term lawmaker An Kyung-ryul is one of the high-profile lawmakers gearing up to run in the district race. And another former Saenuri lawmaker, Hyun Ki-hwan, is considered one of the core members of the pro-Park Geun-hye faction within the ruling party.

The opposition is also ready to pull out all the stops for a victory in the coastal city. That figures from the opposition are willing to compete in the by-election in Busan, which has long been a conservative stronghold, illustrates a shift in voters’ sentiments there. Busan’s mayoral candidates, liberal Oh Keo-don and Saenuri candidate Suh Byung-soo, were running neck-and-neck in the lead up to the June 4 local elections, underscoring the change taking place there.

However, Oh, a unified candidate from the opposition bloc, was defeated by a slim margin of 1.31 percent, a figure that boosted the opposition’s hope for a triumph in Gijang-A District.

In an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo early this week, he said that he will not run in the by-election, even though the former maritime minister is widely perceived to be a competitive potential contender. Oh’s popularity among voters despite his liberal leaning stems from his 30 years of public service in Busan. Over the past 30 years, he has served as an acting mayor of the city and the chairman of the Korea Maritime and Ocean University.

Another opposition figure said to be contemplating a bid is Roh Hoe-chan, a former liberal lawmaker who enjoys a high-profile and widespread popularity among young voters. “If the party wants me to run, I will do it without question,” Roh, who is from the minor opposition Justice Party, said in a radio interview.

If Roh or NPAD manages a victory there, it would have significant political implications for the Saenuri and could prompt the ruling party to shift its priorities with the Park administration.

BY HA SUN-YOUNG, KANG JIN-KYU[jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]

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