Lee seeks re-election in Sejong after expulsion

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Lee seeks re-election in Sejong after expulsion

Lee Hae-chan, former prime minister and six-term lawmaker, left the main opposition party Tuesday after it denied a nomination to the long-serving 63-year-old politician. Lee said he will seek reelection in Sejong City in the next month’s general election.

“I’m temporarily leaving my beloved Minjoo Party,” Lee said in a press release, complaining that the party leadership’s made a groundless decision to rule him out. He added, “whether based on moral factors, competitiveness or performance, there was no basis for this decision.”

Lee also said Kim Chong-in, the interim chairman of the party, claimed it was a political decision not to nominate him, but that the decision of a public political party must be more substantive than this. “I won’t submit to unjustness,” Lee said. “I cannot accept a wrongful decision for the sake of the next generation of politicians.”

The decision to rule out the political godfather for loyalists of the late President Roh Moo-hyun was seen as a strategy to reinvent the party’s image ahead of the April 13 general election by dropping established old-guard politicians.

Lee said Tuesday he will run as an independent in Sejong, a city that was created based on the Roh administration’s ambitious project to create a minor administrative hub within central South Korea. Lee, who served as prime minister during the Roh presidency, ran and won the seat for the opposition party after a constituency was created for Sejong four years ago.

Reminding voters sentimental for the late president that “Sejong City is a future promised by Roh and the party to the public,” Lee said he will run again for reelection to complete the project and also to make a contribution to stop the conservative ruling Saenuri Party from winning another term.

Kim, the Minjoo leader who made the decision to rule Lee out, reacted calmly. “He’s free to leave the party and run independently,” Kim said during a meeting with journalists.

Kim also denied that he had consulted Moon Jae-in, former party chairman and a close associate of the late President Roh, about eliminating Lee. Since Monday’s announcement, Moon has remained closed-mouthed about the situation.

As Lee and his supporters express anger about the party leadership’s move to push key Roh loyalists from the central arena, Hong Chang-sun, head of the nomination committee, tried to calm their rage. In his interview with YTN Radio, Hong mentioned the possibility that high-profile politicians who failed to win nominations in the general election may have later opportunities in the by-elections. He said Roh himself had done so, asking them to stand down for now for the sake of the party’s victory in the upcoming election.

Meanwhile, Rep. Chyung Ho-joon also left the Minjoo Party Tuesday after the party failed him in the nomination evaluation based on poor performance. The first-term lawmaker said he is leaving the party to restore his honor.

Chyung, the son of former five-term lawmaker Chyung Dai-chul, who recently left the Minjoo to join the People’s Party, is also the grandson of Chyung Il-hyung, a former eight-term lawmaker. The three-generation political family all served in central Seoul’s Jung District.

It remains to be seen if Rep. Chyung will join the People’s Party following his father’s suit. As of Tuesday, he made no mention of the possibility.

If Chyung does join, however, the People’s Party will satisfy the 20-lawmaker requirement to become a so-called negotiation bloc. If it does, it will receive 7.3 billion won ($6.14 million) in election subsidies, 4.6 billion won more than it’s now eligible to receive.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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