After making bid, Yoo meets former presidents

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After making bid, Yoo meets former presidents

Accelerating his move to appeal to conservative voters, presidential aspirant Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party met with former President Lee Myung-bak and family members of former President Kim Young-sam on Tuesday.

Yoo, who officially declared his bid Thursday, pledging to restore justice to the country as it is mired in the Choi scandal with President Park Geun-hye now impeached, visited Lee’s office in southern Seoul accompanied by campaign aides who used to work for the Lee administration, including Park Jeong-ha, who was a Blue House spokesman for Lee and is now helping the four-term lawmaker.

Lee’s meeting with the 75-year-old former head of state is seen as his latest attempt to underscore his links with conservative politicians so that he could win the hearts of conservative voters who are disillusioned with the unprecedented abuse of power scandal engulfing the Park Geun-hye administration, for which they voted in the 2012 race.

Yoo had a 10-minute one-on-one meeting with Lee, who led the country from 2008 through 2013.

“Seeing Yoo’s campaign staff today, I think he has drawn very talented people. His team is credible,” Lee was quoted as saying by Park Jeong-ha during his meeting with the 59-year-old contender.

Earlier in the day, the former economist visited the house of former first lady Sohn Myung-soon and had a meeting with her and Kim Hyun-chul, a son of former President Kim Young-sam, who died in 2015.

Yoo’s meetings on Tuesday followed his visit last week to two-time Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil, who was one of the so-called Three Kims, himself and two former presidents Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, who dominated Korean politics for nearly two decades.

While his approval rating remains low with a mere 1.8 percent of support in a recent poll by Embrain conducted on Jan. 23 and 24, the economist-turned-lawmaker is hoping to capitalize on his expertise in economics and his image as a bold politician who prioritizes principle as evidenced by his open dispute with President Park when he was floor leader of the ruling Saenuri Party in 2015. In his bid declaration, he said he stood apart from other contenders because of his expertise in economics.

Yoo, a former economist with a Ph.D. in economics from University of Wisconsin-Madison, has given interviews expressing support for progressive economic policies. Among the economic policies advocated by the former Saenuri floor leader is changing the corporate tax rate from the current 22 percent to 25 percent for companies with more than 50 billion won ($42.9 million) in annual revenue. The 25 percent tax rate was slashed by the Lee Myung-bak administration in 2008.

Yoo also maintains widening welfare benefits is impossible without raising taxes, a position that put him at odds with the Park administration.

With Yoo trying to attract conservatives to boost his presidential prospects, Jeju Governor Won Hee-ryong of the Bareun Party announced Tuesday he would stay out of the presidential race, which means the Bareun Party primary will be a two-way race between Yoo and Gyeonggi Governor Nam Kyung-pil, unless former UN chief Ban Ki-moon decides to join the Bareun to compete with the two.

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