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Democratic Party contemplates Seoul mayoral election picks

Liberal party faces tough challenge of competing against Oh Se-hoon

Rep. Yun Ho-jung, head of the emergency steering committee for the Democratic Party of Korea, wears his glasses during a meeting held inside the National Assembly on Monday. (Joint Press Corps)
Rep. Yun Ho-jung, head of the emergency steering committee for the Democratic Party of Korea, wears his glasses during a meeting held inside the National Assembly on Monday. (Joint Press Corps)
The Democratic Party of Korea is struggling to find a candidate for Seoul mayor in the upcoming local elections, hinting at more difficulties for the party after its loss in the presidential election early this month.

No Democratic Party figure has so far announced a bid for the post, possibly reflecting views that the current mayor has the upper hand. Mayor Oh Se-hoon of the conservative People Power Party is looking to extend his term.

Oh is a central figure within the People Power Party in terms of influence and public reception, and he is widely picked as one of the strongest candidates to bear the party’s flag in the next presidential election slated for 2027.

He scored a crushing win in the mayoral by-election in 2021, defeating his rival from the Democratic Party, Park Young-sun, 57.5 percent to 39 percent. It was a dramatic shift from the parliamentary elections in 2020 when the Democratic Party won all but four districts in Seoul to score a sweeping victory.

For the Democratic Party, it has been a struggle to find a figure with a solid chance to turn the tide, and many heavyweights linked to the Seoul mayoral election have already announced they will not look to compete in the local elections.

Park is reported to have made clear she will not run against Oh in the upcoming election, as has Rep. Woo Sang-ho, who competed against Park in the party primaries for the Seoul mayoral race.

The party is now contemplating to push forward traditional heavyweights to compete against Oh in June, with a focus to give support for a publicly well-known figure with politically centrist views. Its leaders believe that pushing a liberal agenda would work against them in Seoul, where the party already faces heavy criticism from skyrocketing housing prices.

Rep. Song Young-gil, former Democratic Party Chairman Lee Nak-yon and former Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun have been linked to the Seoul mayoral election, but Song is widely picked as the most likely figure to bear the party’s flag in running for the Seoul mayoral post.

Song has not made any comment regarding the speculation, saying only that it is up to the party. Some analyze that Song is waiting for the party to officially request him to run before he makes a move.

Yet Rep. Yun Ho-jung, head of the Democratic Party’s emergency steering committee, said the party is reviewing a number of likely candidates, adding Song is not the only solution to the problem. Former Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon has also been mentioned as a possible candidate for the liberal bloc.

Kim announced earlier he is preparing to consolidate his newly established New Wave Party with the Democratic Party to bear the liberal party’s flag in the local elections.

"There are a few heavyweights who can bear the flag of the Democratic Party (in running for the Seoul mayoral election)," Yun said in a radio interview Tuesday. "This is a problem to be comprehensively thought over with all of these figures in mind."

Yet the Democratic Party is far from struggling to find candidates to run for the Gyeonggi Province gubernatorial election, as three key party figures have already announced their intentions to run. The party is planning to hold primaries.

The Democratic Party prevailed over the People Power Party in Gyeonggi Province in the presidential election despite the disappointing aggregate outcome, and the liberal party has a solid chance to maintain the gubernatorial post.

Reps. Cho Jeong-sik and An Min-suk have publicly announced they will run for the seat, as has Yeom Tae-young, mayor of Suwon, Gyeonggi Province. Kim from the New Wave Party is also speculated to compete in the primaries.

As for the People Power Party, former Rep. Yoo Seong-min is widely expected to compete for the gubernatorial post, and he is scheduled to officially announce his stance within this week.

Former Reps. Ham Jin-gyu, Shim Jae-chul and Kim Yong-hwan have officially announced they will run to represent the People Power Party in the gubernatorial race. The conservative party is also expected to hold primaries to pick its candidates after the bids are finalized.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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