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Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye Vying for Chung Mong-joon

Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye Vying for Chung Mong-joon

Posted March. 29, 2007 07:49,   

한국어

Rep. Chung Mong-joon is on the rise among the two presidential hopefuls of the Grand National Party - former Seoul City Major Lee Myung-bak and former GNP Chairwoman Park Geun-hye.

Chung, a five-term independent lawmaker, not only boasts high public recognition, but also an international contact network from serving as the vice-president of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA). In addition, as Chung also has strong influence in Ulsan, a local constituency, it would be worth keeping an eye on him.

Chung suffered a serious image setback after withdrawing his support for the then presidential candidate, Roh Moo-hyun, a day before the 2002 presidential elections, after having agreed on a single candidate. However, analysts point out that Chung is capable of helping a presidential hopeful to lift his or her popularity nationwide.

Chung and Lee once belonged to the same company. Lee helped the late Hyundai Group founder Chung Ju-yung build Hyundai Group from scratch and Chung is the sixth child of late Chung Ju-yung, the founder of Hyundai Group.

Chung and Park are alumni from the same elementary school. They used to occasionally play tennis together until the 2002 presidential elections. Although Chung asked Park to help in his presidential campaign, after announcing his candidacy in the 2002 presidential elections, Park turned down the offer, claiming that the two did not share the same vision. Ahead of the 2006 Seoul City mayoral election, Park suggested that Chung should run in the party`s nomination race for the Seoul mayoral candidate, but Chung declined the offer.

So far, Lee has been more active in building a relationship with Chung than Park has with Chung. Lee visited the grave of the late Chung Ju-yung on Feb 22, in commemoration of the sixth anniversary of his death. In addition, he praised Chung’s leadership several times during a recent speech. Lee even watched an Olympic qualifying soccer match on Wednesday while sitting right next to Chung.

“As far as I know, there has been no contact between them,” an aide of Lee’s camp said, refuting the claim on the “chemistry” between Chung and Lee. However, another official of Lee’s camp said, “Chung will be of great help if he is willing to help us.” Former employees of Hyundai who have been helping Lee have been arranging meetings between Lee and Chung, according to sources.

However, Park has made no significant progress in enticing Chung, even though she is interested in him, according to aides of Park. Much attention has been paid to how Park will patch up relations with Chung.

Meanwhile, Chung said about Lee during a recent media conference, “Lee has been topping various opinion polls. It is a great strength to him. This shows that the public holds Chung in high regard. Is there a more precious asset than that? However, Chung said about Park, “As the sensitivity that is unique to women is the strength of Park, she should focus on it. However, she has not been paying attention to it, perhaps because she is too busy.”

“Although I get the feeling that Lee is making conscious efforts, he does not meet Chung separately. I think at this stage he doesn’t prefer a particular presidential candidate,” an aide of Chung said.



mhpark@donga.com