Roh aides split in DUP contest
By Kim Jung-yoon
As the main opposition Democratic United Party’s regional primaries to select new party leadership near an end, competition among those loyal to the late former President Roh Moo-hyun is becoming tight.
There was a surprising outcome in South Gyeongsang Province, with the defeat of Lee Hae-chan despite having the support of Moon Jae-in, seen as the leading DUP presidential hopeful from the Roh faction.
Delegates from the region with a deep sense of nostalgia for the late Roh chose a candidate with virtually no ties to the former President over his aide, provoking speculation as to what is behind the results.
Underdog Kim Han-gil, a lawmaker-elect, beat Lee, a former prime minister and leader of the pro-Roh group Saturday, winning 258 of the total 888 ballots cast in the traditional stronghold for pro-Roh mainstreamers such as Lee and Moon. Yet, Lee only received 150 votes.
Kim won the Jeju race Sunday, garnering 65 votes from 156 DUP members, who each cast two votes. Lee came third with 46.
Analysts say this reflects a strategic voting by Roh supporters.
The unexpected victory came as the Governor of South Gyeongsang Province Kim Doo-kwan, also dubbed ‘Little Roh Moo-hyun,’ who comes from a relatively minor fringe group of the pro-Roh faction, supported Kim Han-gil in the leadership race.
Yoon Hee-woong, a senior fellow of the Korea Society Opinion Institute, said Governor Kim supported Kim Han-gil on his home turf in an effort to head off Lee, who would likely boost support for Moon Jae-in in the upcoming presidential primary if elected chairman.
Kim Doo-kwan is reportedly gearing up to compete against Moon in the party’s upcoming primary to select a candidate for the Dec. 19 presidential election.
“Lee’s winning the chairmanship would inevitably solidify Moon’s position, threatening Governor Kim’s ambition to run for the presidency from the liberal camp,” said Yoon.
Moon backed Lee and his alleged alliance with newly elected DUP floor leader Park Jie-won has sparked fury among some DUP members.
“The result of Kim beating Lee in the region could be seen as a backlash from non-mainstreamers of the pro-Roh group and support of Governor Kim’s forces,” said Yoon.
Lee and Moon are considered allies ahead of the Dec. 19 presidential election. They led the foundation of the DUP and took control of the party at the end of last year.
Governor Kim continues to back Kim Han-gil to win the remaining series of regional primaries, together with Ahn Hee-jung, Governor of South Chungcheong Province, and Lee Kwang-jae, Governor of Gangwon Province who all come from the minor fringe group of the pro-Roh faction.
Supporters of the South Gyeongsang governor, mainly from the minor group, appear to believe that it would be better for Kim take power in the DUP than Lee.
Despite the result, Lee has a precarious lead of 78 with 1,594 votes from seven primaries out of 11 with Kim on 1,516.
Yet the outlook of Lee’s win in the leadership race seems cloudy as Kim’s come-from-behind victory could continue in the remaining regional primaries, taking up the challenge against a purported frontrunner Lee.
More twists are likely as the power game within the Roh faction becomes apparent.
Infighting between the mainstream and minor Roh forces will continue in Sejong City, North Chungcheong Province, North Jeolla
Province and Gangwon Province until June 3.
The DUP will announce the party’s new chairman and decision-making Supreme Council members at its national convention on June 9, based on the outcome of the primaries and a separate election by ordinary citizens.