Independent Seoul mayoral hopeful Park Won-soon waves to his supporters after he was named as the unified candidate from the opposition camp during a selection process held at the Jangchung Gymnasium in Seoul, Monday.
By Park Si-soo
Human rights-lawyer-turned activist Park Won-soon was selected Monday as the unified candidate of the opposition camp for the upcoming Seoul mayoral by-election, seen as a litmus test for next year's parliamentary and presidential elections.
The victory set the stage for a showdown between the 55-year-old independent politician and Na Kyung-won of the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) in the Oct. 26 vote.
Park garnered 52.15 percent of the total score in a three-stage assessment ㅡ jury evaluation, opinion poll and direct vote by some 30,000 representatives ㅡ to pick a single candidate.
Rep. Park Young-sun of the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) received for 45.57 percent support followed by Choi Kyu-yeop of the minor Democratic Labor Party, lagging far behind with 2.28 percent. The result dealt a serious blow to the leadership of DP Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu.
“Now I am confident that we can open a new era beyond the GNP and the Lee Myung-bak administration,”Park told reporters after his victory was declared at the Jangchung Gymnasium in central Seoul. “Today, we will bid farewell to the last old train of history, and instead, take the first new train for a journey into a new era.”
Asked whether he will join the DP, he didn’t immediately respond, saying, “As the unified candidate for the opposition camp, I will run in the race with all opposition parties.”
He added he will keep his promise of engaging in “big and broad politics in cooperation with the DP.” Park went on to say, “A new era doesn’t come from nothing. New thoughts, values and methods will be established after overcoming various hurdles on the way. The next ten years will be used to transform Seoul into a city for human beings.”
Park has pledged, if elected, to recreate Seoul as a “livable, human-oriented city.” Among commitments he proposed in previous speeches include a budget cut in waterfront modernization projects on the Han River, free school meals for all students as early as possible, and creating jobs for the underprivileged.
The post of Seoul mayor has been vacant since Oh Se-hoon of the GNP stepped down in August after losing a referendum he called to oppose a free school lunch program supported by the opposition-led city council.
He has criticized two previous Seoul mayors ㅡ Oh and Lee Myung-bak ㅡ for spending too much taxpayers’ money changing the physical outlook of the city, while neglecting living standards.
On the heels of the declaration of Park’s win, four opposition parties and liberal civic groups issued a joint statement saying they will form a unified committee for Park’s election campaign, which will kick off Oct. 13.
“We believe the upcoming election will be not only the means to make the Lee Myung-bak administration liable for devastated livelihoods, but also as a beginning to make Seoul a human-centered city,”the statement read. “To relieve severe social polarization universal welfare must be available and a society that acknowledges the value of labor must be built.”
They vowed that if Park is elected Seoul mayor they will push for a drastic cut in the construction budget for what they call “city beautification”while expanding the budget to provide free school meals to all primary and secondary school students in Seoul.