▲ Hopeful candidates thus far in the race to become the next governor of Jeju are, left to right, top to bottom, Kang Sang Joo, Kang Taek Sang, Ko Kye Chu, Ko Hee Bum, Kim Kyung Taek, Kim Woo Nam, Oh Ok Man, Woo Keun Min and Hyun Myung Kwan. Photos courtesy the candidates
The countdown to the 5th local elections, to be held on June 2, has begun. In the coming polls, Jeju residents will vote to elect a governor, a superintendent of the Provincial Office of Education and the members of the Provincial Council.
Amidst the political vortex of incumbent Governor Kim Tae Hwan’s decision not to run in the next election, the potential candidates have dived into their campaigns to seize the power of governorship.
The Democratic Party Among the gubernatorial candidates, Woo Keun Min, a former governor, is leading the opinion polls by a great margin. It is believed that Woo’s big lead caused Gov. Kim’s decision not to stand again. Recently, Woo applied to rejoin the Democratic Party and his application was approved by the party leadership.
Yet, Woo has a big hurdle to overcome. He was accused of sexual harassment by a woman who worked for a civic group, and he lost his governorship in 2004 due to a breach of the election law. Later, the Supreme Court of Korea found Woo guilty of the sexual harassment. Local civic groups, nationwide feminist groups and some politicians strongly op-posed his rejoining the Democratic Party.
Woo’s political identity disagrees diametrically with that of the party, and that should be reason enough for disqualification, they argued. All these issues combined will be major obstacles for Woo during the campaign period even if he becomes the candidate nominated by the Democrats.
Two other potential Democratic candidates, Ko Hee Bum, former president of the Hankyoreh nationwide news-paper, and Kim Woo Nam, a member of the National Assembly, are already campaigning or preparing for a serious campaign.
Relatively unknown to the local political arena, Ko Hee Bum called for a shift in generations. The former three governors, including the incumbent, have dominated local politics for more than 20 years. All are entering their 70s in a year or so. It is time for them to yield their positions to junior players, Ko Hee Bum is strongly advocating. Various civic groups support him.
Kim Woo Nam is currently serving the National Assembly for his second consecutive time, and is the chairman of the local office of the Democratic Party. He was also a member of the Provincial Council until 2004, when he joined the National Assembly. At the preliminary election, he is looking to unite with Ko Hee Bum against previous governor Woo.
Yet, Kim Woo Nam may not be eligible to run in the election as the official candidate of the party. According to the rules of the party, to join the preliminary election, a chairman must have resigned from his position 120 days before the election. Kim Woo Nam has not yet resigned, and a high-ranking party official who visited Jeju made it clear that he would not be able to run. Kim Woo Nam is arguing that there is an exception clause to the rule. Whether he can run or not seems to entirely depend upon the leadership of the party.
The Grand National Party The potential candidates of the ruling party, the Grand National Party, are also campaigning with hopes to be nominated as their party’s official candidate.
The former mayor of Seogwipo City, Kang Sang Joo, has been putting in great efforts to raise public support. He failed at the preliminary election four years ago and couldn’t even contend for the real race. With his current efforts, however, he is marking second or third place in various opinion polls. He said that he is running only for gubernatorial election, not for the National Assembly election in 2012. He is trying to utilize the public’s high awareness of him to attract supporters.
The former mayor of Jeju City, Kang Taek Sang, resigned his position on March 3 in order to run for the governorship. He was appointed as the mayor of Jeju by Governor Kim one and half years ago and is expected to join the Grand National Party for the preliminary election. Kang Taek Sang is hoping to attract the supporters of Governor Kim and of previous Governor Shin G00 Bum.
Ko Kye Chu, president of the Jeju Special Self-Governing Province Development Corp., which runs the Sam Da Soo water bottling company, officially re-signed on March 2 to also enter the gubernatorial race. He is considered to be a successful chief executive and, in 1998-’99, served the City of Seogwipo as vice-mayor. Like Kang, Ko Kye Chu is hoping to get support from the last two governors.
Kim Kyung Taek, former president of Jeju Inter-national City Development Center, has been preparing for the election for a long time. He was a professor at Jeju National University and vice-governor of the province under Woo’s governor-ship. He resigned from his professorship to become president of the JDC.
Hyun Myung Kwan, former chief executive of Samsung C&T Corporation and gubernatorial candidate of the Party in the 2006 election, is waiting until the best possible moment is declare his intention. He was defeated by the incumbent governor in the previous election, and returned to Samsung as an advisor. Hyun sees Governor Kim’s decision to stand down as a big chance for him and is expected to determine very soon whether to run or not. The ruling party has been defeated by the opposition party in previous local elections and in National Assembly elections.
This local election will be a good test of the Lee Myung-bak administration.
The Participation Party Shortly before going to press, The Participation Party, newly founded and following the political philosophy of former President Roh Moo Hyun, announced that Oh Ok Man would be the party’s candidate for governor. Oh has been actively involved in civic group activities with various groups and was also a member of the Provincial Council. She is currently a member of the supreme council of the Party.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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