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Rival parties brace for by-elections

The main opposition Democratic Party is racked by internal bickering over whether chairman Sohn Hak-kyu, one of its presidential hopefuls, should run in the by-election next month, while the ruling Grand National Party is concentrating its resources on winning the governorship in Gangwon Province.

An aide to Sohn criticized a group of DP legislators calling on the party chairman to run in the by-election in Bundang-B, saying they lacked sincerity.

Rep. Shin Hak-yong of the DP, floor adviser to Sohn, chided fellow DP assemblyman Rep. Moon Hak-jin who had strongly urged Sohn to throw his hat in the ring.

“Moon was never really amicable to Sohn,” Shin said in a radio interview Thursday.

“(Moon) expresses concerns about Sohn’s support ratings these days, and that seems rather awkward.”

Moon is a senior staff member of a minority faction within the DP which has another presidential hopeful, Chung Dong-young, among its members. The faction also includes Park Joo-sun and Chun Jung-bae.

Moon said in another radio interview later Thursday that Shin’s remarks were “rather irresponsible.”

“The by-elections are only about a month away and we don’t have any good options other than Sohn,” Moon said.

Moon stressed his loyalty for the DP and Sohn, but Sohn’s confidants are suspicious of his intentions.

Currently, Sohn’s strongest potential rival is Rhyu Si-min, former health and welfare minister and leader of the new People’s Participation Party, which emerged out of the DP.

Rhyu has been talking about Sohn’s participation in the by-election as well.

“If chairman Sohn runs, it would be a major task for the entire opposition bloc (to make him win),” Rhyu said in a radio interview Thursday.

“It’s a major business so the entire opposition must unite to help him win.”

The ruling GNP controls nearly two thirds of the seats in the National Assembly.

The DP is leaving open the possibility of nominating Sohn as its candidate for Bundang at the last minute while seeking to invite MBC editorial writer Shin Kyung-min as well.
A campaign to encourage voter turnout in the upcoming by-elections in Gimhae, South Gyeonggi Province, early this week. (Yonhap News)
A campaign to encourage voter turnout in the upcoming by-elections in Gimhae, South Gyeonggi Province, early this week. (Yonhap News)

With the opposition struggling with factional conflicts as it starts to prepare for the presidential elections next year, Sohn and Rhyu visited Gangwon Province and Gimhae in South Gyeongsang Province, respectively, on Thursday as part of efforts to garner support in the by-elections.

Having traveled to Gimhae the day before, Sohn looked around the areas where thousands of livestock culled because of foot-and-mouth disease were buried in Gangwon Province. Gangwon recently lost its governor Lee Kwang-jae, a DP member, as he was convicted of violating the law on political funding.

Rhyu was to pay a visit to late former President Roh Moo-hyun’s grave in Bongha Village and meet with his widow Kwon Yang-sook.

Being the chief of the PPP’s election committee for Gimhae, Rhyu is to compete against the DP for the opposition’s single nominee in the southeastern city.

The GNP, meanwhile, is determined to regain Gangwon Province, its traditional stronghold which it lost to Lee Kwang-jae in the local elections last year.

In addition to a weekly visit to the province by the GNP leadership, the party set up a special committee to support Gangwon’s efforts to host the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang.

Rep. Park Geun-hye, the GNP’s strongest presidential contender so far with the nickname “queen of elections,” took the job as adviser to the special committee to add support.

The special committee’s chief Kim Jin-sun quit his job as special adviser to the president for local administration Wednesday to concentrate on efforts to host the Winter Games and, more importantly, help the GNP win the governorship in Gangwon next month. Kim served as governor of Gangwon for three terms in a row from 1998.

By Kim So-hyun (
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Korea Herald daum