|Former Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party of Korea holds a press conference in Gyeyang, Incheon, Sunday, to run for the parliamentary seat in the Gyeyang-B district in the June 1 by-elections. Yonhap|
Lee, Ahn seek to seize party hegemony via by-elections
By Lee Hae-rin
Former presidential candidates Lee Jae-myung and Ahn Cheol-soo declared their bids, Sunday, for parliamentary seats in the June 1 by-elections, transforming the event to one of potentially high political stakes.
Lee of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) is the former Gyeonggi Province governor who lost the March 9 presidential election to President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol by a razor-thin margin, while Ahn Cheol-soo, the head of Yoon's transition committee, also ran for president and merged his campaign with Yoon's days prior to the election.
Lee will run for the seat representing Incheon's Gyeyang-B district, which has been vacant since former DPK Chairman Rep. Song Young-gil resigned to run in the Seoul mayoral election in April, while Ahn will run for seat representing Bundang-A district of Seongnam City, Gyeonggi Province, left by the Kim Eun-hye of the People Power Party (PPP), the former presidential transition committee spokesperson who is now running for the Gyeonggi provincial governor post.
Lee held a press conference in the city, making his first public appearance since the disbandment of his presidential campaign committee on March 10.
In the declaration for his candidacy, Lee said that he had decided to make a frontal breakthrough after much consideration to support the DPK and will stake everything for the victory in Incheon and lead the party to win the majority of the local elections. Lee will accept the party's offer to lead the party's campaign committee Wednesday.
Ahn also declared his bid to run in the election on the PPP's ticket during a press conference at the National Assembly.
Ahn spoke of the importance of Gyeonggi Province as a major battlefield and big match in the local elections and declared he would devote himself to getting as many PPP candidates as possible elected in the region.
In his speech, Ahn said that Seongnam has turned into a "Gotham City" under the DPK's 12-year tenure, referring to the allegations against Lee that implicated him in a corruption scandal surrounding an apartment construction project in Seongnam as the city's former mayor.
"The people of Bundang district and Seongnam City are victims of the former mayor and governor's ethical and legal corruption. To change that, we need a new leadership in Seongnam City and Gyeonggi Province," Ahn said. Lee served as Seongnam's mayor for eight years from 2010 to 2018.
|Ahn Cheol-soo, the head of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's transition team, declares his bid for a parliamentary seat representing the Bundang-A district in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, during a press conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, Sunnday. (Yonhap)|
Ahn also mentioned that he was the first venture entrepreneur to build the headquarters of the company in Bundang, emphasizing his relation to the district. Ahn's anti-virus software company, AhnLab, has been based in Pangyo Techno Valley since 2011.
"In the last presidential election, the judge won and competent worker lost," Lee said, referring to President-elect Yoon as the "judge" and to himself as the "competent worker." Lee said that this local election is the time for the latter, and stated that he will develop Gyeyang District into Incheon's new "Silicon Valley," as he did for Seongnam City's Pangyo IT Valley in his previous posts.
Political analysts found something in common in the decisions of Lee and Ahn to run in the by-election.
"Their candidacies have turned the local elections into an 'overtime' of the presidential race," political commentator Rhee Jong-hoon told The Korea Times, Sunday.
Lee has shown his determination to prove the public's support for him, while Ahn is seeking to increase his influence within the PPP by choosing to run for a district seat rather than choosing to take part in Yoon's administration as prime minister, Rhee said.
"Lee and Ahn's candidacies are both based on their needs to seize party hegemony and keep their chances in the next presidential race alive," Shin Yul, a professor of politics at Myongji University, said.