The incumbent governor of Jeju Special Self-Governing Province, Kim Tae Hwan, announced on Feb. 17 that he would not run for the next gubernatorial election scheduled for June 2.
In a press release read by the vice governor, Governor Kim said that he “made the choice for the free spirits.”
“I already made the decision four years ago when I was elected for the second time.” He went on to say that “I did my best to serve the people of Jeju” and “I’ll continue to work to complete the Special Self-Governing Province.”
Kim won two previous elections and was expected to run a third time. However, he faced much controversy over a naval base proposed to be established on the island. A recall vote was held in an attempt by civic groups to unseat Kim, in what the first recall action against a provincial governor in Korea. He survived the vote.
The governor’s approval rating plummeted thereafter. A series of recent electoral surveys showed that he barely maintained third place among the potential candidates. Kim trailed Woo Keun Min, a former governor, by a double-figure margin and was even behind former mayor of Seogwipo City Kang Sang Joo, which was considered a great shock.
Kim’s decision stunned not only local politics but also the island as a whole. Local residents seem bewildered and are paying close attention to which way the shards will fly.
To spice up the race even further, media outlets reported this week that Jeju City Mayor Kang Taek Sang will officially resign his position as of March 3 in order to run as a candidate for the governorship. Similar reports came just before this issue went to press that Ko Kye Chu, president of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Development Corp., which runs the Sam Da Soo water bottling company, planned to officially resign by March 2 to also enter the gubernatorial race.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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