By Kim Rahn
Politicians have tried to make use of entertainers' influence on the public, and the Grand National Party (GNP) presidential hopeful Lee Myung-bak is no exception.
A number of actors, comedians, sports stars and even a cartoonist supported Lee openly, accompanying him at speeches and events.
Actor Lee Deok-hwa has long shown his support for Lee.
In the late 1990s, he sought a lawmaker position with the New Korea Party, predecessor of the GNP, but failed. This time, he joined Lee's camp, taking an adviser post for the camp's culture and art policy.
He actively took part in the primary election campaign. In a camp event in June, he called Lee ``Your Excellency,'' and people criticized him for making the excessively loyal remark, saying such a term might have been used during the dictatorial period.
The actor showed his support for Lee at major speech venues nationwide before the primary campaign period.
Actor Yu In-chon, who is also an ardent supporter of Lee, helped him more behind the scenes. Lee's camp once considered selecting Yu, the first chairman of Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture, which was set up during Lee's mayoral term, as head of the camp's culture and art policy department.
``Yu is one of the key brains for Lee's culture policy. It is said that Yu had a role in establishing election pledges related to culture projects,'' said a member of Lee's fan club ``MB Love.''
Actors Seo In-seok and Jeong Heung-chae and comedian Lee Sang-yong, nicknamed Popeye, are also known to be devoted supporters of Lee. They have accompanied Lee at major speech venues since June.
Other entertainers who made public their support for Lee include: Actress Lee Eui-jong; actors Lee Jong-won, Baek Il-seop and Bae Do-hwan; comedians Jeong Jin-su and Seo Hyeon-seon; cartoonist Park Kwang-soo; and sports stars Kim Ki-hoon, Yoo Nam-kyu and Ha Hyung-joo.
After Lee was selected as the GNP's presidential candidate Monday, a member of the camp's culture and art policy department said, ``Lee beat another candidate Park Geun-hye with only about 2,500 votes, less than the expected number. I believe entertainers like Lee Deok-hwa, Seo In-seok and Jeong Heung-chae, who showed their strong support at speeches at the end of the primary campaign period, have helped a lot.''
After the election, the entertainers held a celebration party at a restaurant in Seoul Monday night.
In the meantime, security for Lee will be toughened.
Candidates for the GNP primary were protected by private bodyguard companies, but now the presidential hopeful will be guarded by the government authorities.
Police and the Presidential Security Service take charge of guarding presidential candidates of major political parties.
A police official said they could dispatch officers to Lee at anytime but would not disclose how many for security reasons. About 20 to 30 are expected.
The police will send guards to candidates of other parties when selected. During the 2002 presidential election, a total of 60 police officers were sent to guard candidates.