|Na Kyung-won, a former four-term lawmaker with the main opposition People Power Party, greets citizens ahead of a press conference on a street in Itaewon, Seoul, to declare her bid for the Seoul mayoral by-election, Wednesday. Yonhap|
By Jung Da-min
Political heavyweights of the liberal and opposition blocs are set to compete for the Seoul mayoral post in the upcoming by-election in April. The position has remained vacant since last July following the suicide of former Mayor Park Won-soon.
The by-election for the mayoral post of Seoul is a pressing political matter as the result could be seen as a barometer for the upcoming presidential election set to be held in March 2022.
Eyes are on whether the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) could possibly win the election despite criticism that the need for the by-election was a direct result of the suicide of DPK member and former mayor, Park, following sexual harassment allegations raised against him.
From the conservative opposition bloc, minor opposition People's Party leader Ahn Cheol-soo declared his bid for the Seoul mayoral post late last month, expressing his willingness to cooperate with other conservative parties including the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) to form a "big tent" opposition bloc in hopes of winning the election against the ruling bloc.
|Minor opposition People's Party leader Ahn Cheol-soo, who declared his bid to run in the April by-election for the Seoul mayoral post, attends a Supreme Council meeting of the party at the National Assembly in Seoul, Monday. Yonhap|
But the PPP's emergency committee chief Kim Chong-in has repeatedly said there will be no merger of the main opposition party and the People's Party when the latter only has three seats while the former has 102 and could win the election without working with Ahn's camp.
But political watchers said there is still a high possibility that the conservative parties would finally reach an agreement to form a big tent to create solidarity between the conservative and centrist blocs.
|Oh Se-hoon, former Seoul mayor from 2006 to 2011, holds a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Jan. 7, to declare his bid to run in the April by-election for the Seoul mayoral post. Yonhap|
There are many other candidates from the PPP who declared their bids to run in the race, including heavyweights Oh Se-hoon, former Seoul mayor from 2006 to 2011 and Na Kyung-won, a former four-term lawmaker. Oh declared his bid last week, saying he would not run in the race if Ahn joins the PPP but if it is not the case, he would run in the race as a candidate of the PPP. Na declared her bid on Wednesday.
Holding a press conference on a street in Itaewon in Seoul's Yongsan District, in which business owners were hit particularly hard as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Na referred to economic hardships of the people and vowed to introduce a basic income system for the people of Seoul. She said such a basic income would ensure no citizen would be left unable to cover minimum living costs.
"We must bring back our daily routines even as COVID-19 quarantine measures are in effect. We need to maintain social distancing measures while working for a living at the same time," Na said. "I will introduce a tailored basic income system for Seoul residents to eliminate the trap of poverty."
|SMEs and Startups Minister Park Young-sun, a former four-term lawmaker, attends a meeting of ministers of economy-related ministries, at the Government Complex Seoul, Monday. Yonhap|
From the DPK's side, SMEs and Startups Minister Park Young-sun, a former four-term lawmaker, has been garnering high public support in polls of potential candidates of the Seoul mayoral election but is yet to declare her bid to run in the race. Minister Park said she would decide on the matter sometime within January, saying she is currently focused on tasks to help business owners as the SMEs minister.
Among other candidates from the country's liberal bloc are Rep. Woo Sang-ho, a four-term lawmaker with the DPK and Rep. Kim Jin-ai, floor leader of the minor opposition Open Minjoo Party. The two reached an agreement on Tuesday that they would push ahead with forming a liberal big tent if they are elected as a candidate representing their parties.
|Rep. Woo Sang-ho, a four-term lawmaker with the ruling Democratic Party of Korea who declared his bid to run in the April by-election for the Seoul mayoral post, holds a press conference to present his planned real estate policy, at the National Assembly in Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap|