Opposition candidates win Seoul, Busan mayor races

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Opposition candidates win Seoul, Busan mayor races

 People Power Party Seoul mayoral candidate Oh Se-hoon expresses joy after his overwhelming victory in a by-election on Wednesday is confirmed.  [YONHAP]

People Power Party Seoul mayoral candidate Oh Se-hoon expresses joy after his overwhelming victory in a by-election on Wednesday is confirmed. [YONHAP]

 
Former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon is returning to City Hall after winning a crucial by-election for the nation’s capital city on Wednesday.  
 
By-elections took place in 21 places nationwide including Seoul and the second largest city of Busan. According to the National Election Commission (NEC), the opposition People Power Party (PPP) won both mayoral races in Seoul and Busan.  
 
The PPP’s Oh scored 57.5 percent and his ruling Democratic Party (DP) rival Park Young-sun scored 39.18 percent.  
 
In the Busan mayoral race, Park Heong-joon of the PPP scored 62.67 percent and the DP’s Kim Young-choon 34.42 percent.
 
Wednesday’s by-elections are considered crucial political tests of the DP and PPP ahead of next year’s presidential election. The two mayoral vacancies were created due to sexual harassment scandals involving the mayors, both DP politicians
 
Turnout for the Seoul mayoral race was 58.2 percent. For the Busan mayoral by-election, the turnout was 52.7 percent, the NEC said.
 
Voters cast ballots from 6 a.m. till 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Early voting for the by-elections also took place on Friday and Saturday. The early voting turnout across the country was 20.54 percent, the highest ever in the history of a by-election.  
 
The PPP’s Oh, a lawyer who started his political career with a legislative election win in 2000, was elected Seoul mayor in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. He stepped down in August 2011 after a referendum on a plan to offer free school lunches to only 30 percent of Seoul's students, not all. The turnout for the referendum was below the legal minimum quorum, leading him to resign.
 
Park Won-soon won the mayoral by-election that followed in October 2011. He was reelected in 2014 and 2018, but committed suicide last July after his former secretary filed a complaint against him for sexual molestation.  
 
After stepping down as mayor, Oh was a visiting fellow at King’s College London, and also conducted city governance lectures in Britain, China and Peru. He attempted a return to politics by running in the 2016 legislative election to represent Seoul's Jongno District. He was defeated by Chung Sye-kyun, currently prime minister.
 
In the general election last April, Oh ran against Ko Min-jung of the DP, former spokeswoman for President Moon Jae-in. He was defeated by 2.4 percent, and political observers said Oh’s political career had come to an end.  
 
But he declared a bid for the Seoul mayoral by-election in January and won the PPP’s primary. On March 23, just two weeks before the election, he defeated Ahn Cheol-soo, a former presidential candidate and head of the centrist People’s Party, in public opinion polls to become the sole conservative candidate.  
 
Oh’s victory against DP rival Park, former startups minister for the Moon administration, was expected. He was a clear frontrunner in polls for weeks.  
 
In Busan, PPP candidate Park Heong-joon won against the DP’s Kim Young-choon.  
 
It was the second time that Park was elected to public office since his legislative election victory in Suyeong District of Busan in 2004. At the time, he won the seat as a candidate from the Grand National Party, the predecessor of the PPP.
 
Park is a well-known associate of former President Lee Myung-bak. He served as senior political affairs secretary in the Lee Blue House from 2009 to 2010. He also served as special advisor to Lee for social affairs in 2011.  
 
From 2014 to 2016, Park served as secretary-general of the National Assembly secretariat. He is also a professor at the Graduate School for International Studies at Dong-A University in Busan.  
 
The Busan mayoral post was left vacant after Oh Keo-don, the first DP politician to win the post, resigned last April after admitting to molesting a city hall employee.  
 
 
BY SER MYO-JA   [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]  
 
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