Both DP and UFP struggle with nominations

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Both DP and UFP struggle with nominations

With less than a month before the general elections, major political parties are wrapping up their selection of candidates, but the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) are struggling with various nomination problems.

DP Chairman Lee Hae-chan said Monday that the party will permanently ban politicians from returning to the ruling party if they run independently in the April 15 general elections following disqualification in the nomination process. Lee made the warning as disqualified candidates are increasingly leaving the party to run independently, effectively splitting votes in the constituencies.

One of the examples was Moon Seok-gyun, the eldest son of National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang. After criticism arose that the six-term lawmaker was trying to hand over his electoral district to his son, the DP named a political rookie, Oh Yeong-hwan, to the Uijeongbu A District of Gyeonggi without holding a primary. Moon Seok-gyun then gave up his DP membership and declared his bid to run as an independent on Tuesday.

Other prominent lawmakers, Min Byung-doo and Oh Jae-sae, also challenged the party’s decision to disqualify them and declared that they will run independently.

Chairman Lee’s warning, however, invited criticism from the opposition parties. In the 2016 general elections, Lee left the DP after he was disqualified, ran independently and returned to the party.

The DP’s list of proportional candidates also prompted criticism. The party announced a list of 20 candidates and five backups on Saturday, but some controversial figures are listed on top. Choi Hye-yeong, professor of social welfare administration at Gangdong University and a former ballerina suffering from disabilities caused by a traffic accident, was given first place, despite an allegation that she received higher state subsidies by using a legal loophole.

Kim Hong-gul, the youngest son of the late President Kim Dae-jung, was given fourth place, despite his criminal history. He was convicted in 2002 for receiving 3.67 billion won ($2.96 million) in bribes.

Park Myeong-suk of the Korean Pharmaceutical Association, a former executive of the medical goods wholesaler Geo-Young, won 13th place on the list. The company has been criticized of receiving preferential treatment in supplying face masks to the government amid the ongoing new coronavirus outbreak.

Because the DP said it will join a liberal coalition of proportional candidates, they need to change their party affiliations to the new party before the National Election Commission’s candidacy registration deadline on March 27. The DP said candidates from minor parties will be given top numbers, while its candidates will be placed lower on the list, but remain safe enough to win.

The DP’s decision to join the coalition also invited fierce criticism from opposition parties, because it had pushed forward the revision of the Public Official Election Act to introduce the new election rules that triggered the political nightmare in the proportional representation system. Although the DP initially promised that it wouldn’t create a satellite party to win more proportional seats and condemned its rival, the UFP, for having done so, it ended up creating a coalition party, a de facto satellite offshoot. The DP’s proportional candidates will run as the coalition’s candidates, but return to the ruling party after the election.

The main opposition UFP, which had created the satellite offshoot Future Korea Party (FKP) in February to exploit the new election rules, is also facing a nightmare.

While the UFP only fields candidates in constituencies, the FKP only fields proportional candidates in their alliance. After the FKP announced the list of 40 proportional candidates on Monday, the UFP was baffled as its recommendations were largely ignored.

Candidates recruited by UFP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn were placed at the bottom of the FKP’s list. According to sources from the two parties, the UFP recommended 10 candidates, but all of them were given numbers making it unfeasible for them to win. The FKP is expected to win about 20 seats, and all Hwang’s recruitments were given numbers below 20.

Yun Ju-keyng, granddaughter of independence fighter Yun Bong-gil and former director of the Independence Hall of Korea, was Hwang’s celebrity recruitment, but she was given the number 21. Ji Seong-ho, a North Korean defector and a human rights activist, was placed on the backup list.

On the FKP’s list of 40 candidates, Jo Su-jin, a former editorial writer of the Dong-A Ilbo, was named the top. Former Army Gen. Shin Won-shik was given the second spot, and Kim Ye-ji, a famous blind piano player, was ranked third. Former Vice Foreign Minister Cho Tae-yong was listed fourth. Yoo Yeong-ha, lawyer of former President Park Geun-hye, had applied for a nomination with the FKP, but he was disqualified.

According to the sources, Hwang asked the FKP to reconsider the list before announcing it on Monday, but the satellite party refused. Sources said Hwang was enraged, while his aides called it a “coup” by FKP Chairman Han Sun-kyo.

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

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