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Ex-Justice Minister Mulls Mayoral Run

Posted February. 28, 2006 02:59,   


The ruling Uri Party has been trying to persuade former Justice Minister Kang Keum-sil to run for Seoul mayor. As time passes, it seems that Kang is being persuaded to, little by little.

“I don’t want to take part in politics, but I find it more and more difficult to decline to run for the mayoral election,” Kang said on February 24. In an interview with a newsweekly on February 27, Kang went further by saying, “If I am able to preserve my identity, even an electoral defeat would teach me a worthwhile lesson.”

In the same interview, Kang stressed the importance of “maintaining her identity” by saying, “Whether I am going to declare my candidacy or not boils down to whether I will be able to keep my identity as a public figure intact. In other words, I must be able to maintain the consistency in my philosophy, character, speech, and behavior that I have shown throughout my public activities. If this consistency is threatened, I will see myself as a loser regardless of the election’s outcome.”

The former justice minister cites two reasons why she is hesitant to accept the Uri Party nomination. One is whether she is qualified enough to perform the duties of Seoul mayor. The other is whether she will be able to keep her identity as a public figure.

The two questions are profound and philosophical. Once a person decides to accept the candidacy of a party and enters an electoral competition, it is difficult to maintain one’s identity. More importantly, the office of Seoul mayor is the most coveted seat of all in the May 31 local elections by both the governing and opposition parties. The party who wins in Seoul will emerge as the winner after the local elections. Given the political importance of the contest and the fierce competition, it will be impossible to fight her rivals and pull off a victory solely through her philosophy, skills, and willpower.

She may be questioning herself over her own capabilities to lead the Seoul city government because all that is on her resume are her 12-year and 17-month stints as judge and justice minister, respectively.

While in charge of the Justice Ministry, she used to murmur, “It’s a comedy!” an observation she made while watching lawmakers. Now she might run for office, thereby making herself a party to that comedy. It is natural that she feels deeply troubled.

While the Uri Party wants Kang to join it in the local elections, all it is saying is, “Please be our Joan of Arc.” It fails to provide the least persuasive reason why Kang is qualified to be Seoul mayor.

The only obvious reason is that her approval rating is fairly high according to the polls. The ruling party believes that her popularity makes a competition with the Grand National Party (GNP) worth the efforts. Since Kang was first mentioned as a potential candidate of the Uri Party for Seoul mayor, election simulations estimate a closely fought election between her and her opponent.

However, some cool-headed members in the party have analyzed that her approval rating is not high enough to win the local elections.