By-elections will fill five seats in parliament
The elected lawmakers will represent Jongno District in central Seoul; Seocho-A District in southern Seoul; Jung and Nam districts in Daegu; Anseong in Gyeonggi; and Sangdang District in Cheongju, North Chungcheong.
While the by-elections have largely been overshadowed by the tight race between ruling Democratic Party (DP) candidate Lee Jae-myung and main opposition People Power Party (PPP) candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, the results are expected to affect the tone for the June local elections.
But even if the PPP wins all constituencies, its number of seats in the National Assembly will still be far below that of the DP. The DP currently holds 172 seats, while the PPP holds 106.
Among the five constituencies, Seoul’s Jongno District arguably has the biggest stake and is widely considered to hold symbolic meaning in Korean politics, as it has produced three presidents. Presidents Yun Posun, Roh Moo-hyun and Lee Myung-bak all represented Jongno during their lawmaker careers.
The most recent lawmaker to represent Jongno was former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who resigned from the post late last year to run for president. Lee Nak-yon eventually lost to Lee Jae-myung in the DP primary.
Seocho-A District is the only one of the five where both the DP and PPP fielded candidates. The DP earlier this year announced it would not field a candidate for Jongno District, Anseong and Cheongju as a gesture to “reform” the DP amid a growing sense of urgency within the party as Lee Jae-myung’s support ratings continued to lag behind those of candidate Yoon.
The parliamentary seats leading Anseong and Cheongju were left vacant after former DP lawmakers were found guilty of violating election laws.
The PPP hasn’t fielded a candidate only for Daegu, after former PPP Rep. Kwak Sang-do stepped down amid a snowballing corruption scandal.
While 10 candidates are running in this week’s Jongno District by-election, pundits have placed their bets on three: the PPP’s Choe Jae-hyeong, former chief of the Board of Audit and Inspection; independent Kim Young-jong, who served three terms as head of the Jongno District Office as a DP member; and Bae Bok-joo, backed by the minor-left Justice Party. Kim Young-jong left the DP after the ruling party said it won’t field any candidates for the Jongno race. If the PPP’s Choe gets elected, it will be the first time in 10 years for a lawmaker of a conservative party to represent Jongno.
BY LEE SUNG-EUN [email@example.com]