An Hee-jung makes presidential bid known

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An Hee-jung makes presidential bid known

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South Chungcheong Governor An Hee-jung declared his bid for president on Thursday, vowing to fulfill tasks left undone by two former presidents and bring unity to the country as head of state.

With An jumping into the race, the opposition Minjoo Party is going to have a number of political heavyweights vying for the nomination to reclaim the Blue House, which it lost to the ruling Saenuri in the 2007 election and has failed to win back since.

“I will strive to complete missions left unfinished by (former presidents) Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Moreover,” proclaimed the two-term governor in his Facebook post Thursday. “I will make the country take a leap from the past 100 years of humiliation and sorrow.”

Vowing to bring unity to the party, An promised to transcend the factional strife within it. An’s bid declaration has long been anticipated given his high-profile image as a young politician with deep ties to former president Roh. A longtime confidant of Roh, the 51-year-old governor has been considered to have potential to appeal to young voters and moderates.

An’s bid declaration came in the wake of the formation of the Minjoo’s new leadership, headed by five-term lawmaker Choo Mi-ae, who is considered to be a member of the pro-Moon Jae-in group. With the election of the new party leadership largely composed of figures close to Moon, alarm bells have been going off among those preparing to join the race to compete with Moon, who was defeated by incumbent President Park Geun-hye by a margin of 3.6 percent in the 2012 race. He is most favored by Minjoo supporters to be their party nominee in polls.

What An and Moon have in common is that their political careers have both been centered on late president Roh.

An was an aide to Roh when he was a lawmaker in early 1990s and was deeply involved in the 2002 campaign that Roh won. While An did not serve in any government position during Roh’s five-year term between 2003 and 2008, he has been known as one of the last-standing confidants of the human rights lawyer-turned-president, who killed himself in 2009 amid a bribery scandal involving his family, just a year after he was succeeded by Lee Myung-bak.

Moon, a former human rights lawyer, served in the Roh presidential office as his chief of staff and was later head of the Roh Moo Hyun Foundation established following his death.

An’s bid declaration came after Rep. Kim Boo-kyum expressed his intention to run in the primary. Kim pledged Wednesday that he would strive to win the hearts of moderate voters and constituents in the region of Jeolla, where the Minjoo Party had a humiliating defeat at the hands of the People’s Party, despite the region’s history as its stronghold. Kim had a breakthrough in the general election by becoming the first liberal party lawmaker to represent a Daegu district, which is the traditional backbone of the conservative Saenuri Party.

In a direct warning to party insiders, Kim said giving Moon an easy presidential ticket without a challenge from within the party in the primary would be nothing but “an easy path to defeat.”

“If we enter the race with the status quo,” wrote Kim in his bid declaration, “we will fail to win Jeolla region and appeal to moderates.”

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon is widely expected to throw his hat in the ring in the coming months, capitalizing on the high political profile he has accumulated since he took helm of the city office in mid-2011.


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

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