▲ Left to right, Hyun Myung Kwan, Ko Hee Bum, Woo Keun Min, Kang Sang Joo Photos courtesy the candidates
Jeju’s gubernatorial election has been sucked into a whirlpool. The Secretary General of the Grand National Party announced on May 11 that the party nullified its nomination of Hyun Myung Kwan, former CEO of Samsung C&T Corporation, as their candidate for Jeju Governor. He went on to say that the party would not name a candidate for the upcoming election.
Everything seemed to be moving smoothly for Hyun until his brother was arrested with a charge of bribery. Hyun’s younger brother tried to give money to campaigners, which is illegal under the election laws, and was caught on hidden cameras allegedly placed by Woo Keun Min’s supporters. Police raided a hotel coffee shop where Hyun’s brother was meeting the campaigners and searched his house for evidence. It is known that police secured some meaningful evidence to prove the illegality of Hyun’s brother. A warrant was issued by the court for his arrest.
Hyun won the preliminary election with strong support from party members and the Electoral College. Thanks to media exposure, Hyun started to lead the opinion polls. It is his second attempt to become governor.
Hyun, on the one hand, apologized for his brother’s wrong doing. On the other, he criticized the opponent’s negative election campaign, saying that using a hidden camera to videotape his campaigners’ every move is an infringement of privacy and was a dirty trick. Hyun, consequently, has left the party and is seriously considering continuing his campaign as an independent candidate.
Meanwhile, the progressive camps (the Democratic Party, the Participation Party and the Democratic Labor party) officially named Ko Hee Bum as their candidate.
When Ko joined the party early this year, he was almost unknown in local political circles. Calling for a shift in generations, Ko went on a hunger strike to protest the party’s decision to allow former Governor Woo Keun Min’s rejoining of the party to run for election. Various civic groups have supported Ko. Yet, his public support has never been close to that of those in the leading group.
To reverse the unfavorable campaign situation, Ko threw the dice and agreed with two progressive candidates, Oh Ok Man of the Participation Party, and Hyun Ae Ja from the Democratic Labor Party, to choose the one who gets the most support from the Electoral College and opinion polls. Ko succeeded and is expected to realign for the real battle with the support of Oh and Hyun.
Woo Keun Min, a former governor, an independent candidate, is still a leading figure on various opinion polls. Once he was seemingly undefeatable, and the general situation was favorable to him. However, polls have shown that his public support has plummeted due to having rejoined and subsequently left the Democratic Party 16 days later. He was accused of sexual molestation, and lost his governorship due to the breach of the election law in 2004. The Supreme Court of Korea confirmed that Woo is liable for the sexual molestation.
The party leadership believed that with Woo’s popularity and high public support the party could win the election. However, his rejoining created tremendous criticism and opposition from civic groups and politicians regardless of their partisanship. After the reviewing process, the party disqualified Woo from the preliminary election and he left the party.
Due to the Grand National Party’s decision to not name a candidate, former mayor of Seogwipo City, Kang Sang Joo, who previously lost the preliminary elections to Hyun, has abruptly left the party and decided to run as an independent. This will be his second time to run for Governor of Jeju.
Candidates are fighting a fierce battle. With the candidates reshuffled and the retraction of the nomination, the campaign enters a hazy phase.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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