|Lee Jae-myung, former presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea / Korea Times file|
By Kang Hyun-kyung
Lee Jae-myung, the former Gyeonggi governor who lost the March 9 presidential race by a close margin on the ruling Democratic Party of Korea's (DPK) ticket, will run in the upcoming by-election in Incheon, continuing his political career.
The electoral district seat has been vacant since former DPK Chairman Song Young-gil resigned to run in the Seoul mayoral election. Seven by-elections to fill vacant parliamentary seats will be held concurrently on June 1, along with the local elections to elect mayors, governors and city and provincial council members.
DPK senior spokesman Ko Yong-jin confirmed Lee's candidacy for the by-election after a two-month hiatus following the presidential election, saying he was called upon by several DPK members to run in Incheon's Gyeyang B district.
"Not only will he run in the by-election, but he will also lead the DPK's campaign for the June 1 local elections as the chairperson," Ko told reporters after the party's interim committee meeting on Friday.
The DPK completed the selections of candidates for the June 1 local and by-elections during the meeting.
The ruling party will launch its campaign committee for the June 1 elections next Wednesday.
Lee will attend the ceremony to officially declare his bid to run in the by-election, and accept the offer to lead the party's campaign committee.
Earlier, several DPK members who are close to Lee publicly encouraged him to consider running in the by-election for his return to politics.
Park Ji-hyun, the co-chairperson of the DPK's interim committee, is the latest person who made a case for Lee's return to politics.
"We must have him to win the June 1 local and by-elections and also to stop the wayward incoming Yoon Suk-yeol government from continuing to do things on their way," she said on Friday. "Lee should run in the by-election and also take a leading role in the DPK's campaign for the local elections."
Lee has plenty of experience in local government positions. He served as the mayor of Seongnam City before he was elected governor of Gyeonggi Province. But he has no prior experience in the nation's parliament. If he is elected and becomes a lawmaker, he may find it relatively easier to consolidate his support base for the next presidential election.
Inside the ruling party, however, some are critical of Lee's return. The critics say he is responsible for the DPK's loss in the presidential election and thus it is inappropriate for him to make a comeback so quickly. Some are worried about the possible negative impact on the DPK's local election campaigns.
Lee is scheduled to make his comeback to politics two months after he lost the March 9 presidential election. President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol won the election by a razor-thin margin of 0.73 percentage point.