|The main opposition United Future Party has eliminated several heavyweights from the candidate list for the April 15 general election. From left are former party leader Hong Joon-pyo, former South Gyeongsang Province Governor Kim Tae-ho, former National Assembly deputy speaker Lee Ju-young, four-term lawmaker Kim Jae-kyung, and the party's vice floor leader Kim Han-pyo. / Yonhap|
By Kim Rahn
A dozen political heavyweights in the main opposition United Future Party (UFP) have been dropped from the nomination process for candidates for the April 15 general election, mostly following conflicts with the party leadership over which constituencies they would run in.
Predictably, most of them are strongly protesting their elimination, saying they would leave the party and run as independent candidates in their desired constituencies, especially in the North and South Gyeongsang provinces, traditionally the home turf of conservatives.
The UFP's candidate nomination committee decided to exclude Hong Joon-pyo ― a former four-term lawmaker, South Gyeongsang Province governor, and presidential candidate for the UFP's predecessor, the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) ― as candidate for the Yangsan B District in South Gyeongsang Province, Thursday.
Hong had initially hoped to run in the Miryang and Changnyeong district in the province which includes his hometown. But as the party wanted the veteran politician to run in a highly competitive district in Seoul or the surrounding metropolitan area, he said he would instead run in Yangsan B, where President Moon Jae-in's home is located, and residents there are generally favorable to the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), noting that the district was also highly competitive.
But the party's nomination committee and leadership did not agree and decided to cut him off.
Hong vehemently protested, calling the committee head Kim Hyong-o "mean."
Claiming Kim called him several days ago to say there would be a primary for the district, Hong wrote on Facebook: "I never dreamed that a person who has served as a National Assembly speaker and is almost 80 years old would tell such a malicious lie."
He indicated Kim's spite toward him may have played a part in the decision, describing past conflicts between the two when Kim was speaker and he was the floor leader of the LKP.
Hong also implied he could run as an independent. "From today, I'll contemplate what will be the most Hong Joon-pyo-like act. The contemplation won't take long."
Another former South Gyeongsang Province governor, Kim Tae-ho, was also eliminated as a UFP candidate.
He had also refused the committee's request to run in a highly competitive constituency in Seoul and insisted on competing in his hometown, the Sancheong and Geochang district in the province.
In protest, Kim left the UFP, Sunday, and announced he would run as an independent.
"I'm leaving the party. I promise I'll come back after winning the election," he wrote on Facebook. "The committee made a bad decision that a heavyweight cannot work for his or her own hometown. What bizarre logic."
Besides Hong and Kim Tae-ho, other big names in South Gyeongsang Province that have been eliminated include five-term lawmaker Lee Ju-young who was an Assembly vice speaker; four-term, Kim Jae-kyung; and two-term, Kim Han-pyo.
For North Gyeongsang Province and Daegu, the party also cut six out of its 15 incumbent lawmakers.