Seoul Mayor to announce presidential bid ‘soon’

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, a potential presidential candidate on the liberal opposition side, said Wednesday that he would “soon” announce whether he will run for the 2017 presidential election.

“I will carefully consider my decision and tell you my conclusion soon,” said Park in a radio interview.

Asked about whether he would make that announcement within this year - the election is slated to take place in December 2017 - the mayor refused to offer a specific timeline. “I think we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves,” he said. 

Since being re-elected as mayor in June 2014, the activist-turned politician has been regarded as one of the candidates for the presidential ticket of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea. Former President Lee Myung-bak was a Seoul mayor when he decided to run for the top office.  

According to a survey released Monday by local pollster Realmeter, Park ranked fourth in the list for the most favored presidential candidates - behind former Minjoo leader Moon Jae-in, and former People’s Party leader Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon topped the list. 

Rep. Ahn reiterated his pledge to transform what he viewed as “antiquated” politics in South Korea, asserting that the next year’s election would witness “big changes” that defied conventional wisdom.

“I will devote myself to changing the politics that the people have been fed up with,” said Ahn in a speech Tuesday at a community college in Seoul. “Any predictions based on conventional wisdom or current polling will prove wrong.” 

The former People’s Party leader also expressed confidence about the prospect of his centrist party which emerged as the third-biggest party in the latest general election. Ahn resigned as its party leader in June over a bribery scandal involving his fellow lawmakers Reps. Kim Su-min and Park Sun-sook. 

The entrepreneur-turned-politician withdrew his bid for the Seoul mayorship in 2011 to endorse Park. In the 2012 presidential election, Ahn also yielded to Moon, then presidential candidate from the main opposition United Democratic Party, who was defeated by Park Geun-hye, the conservative flag-bearer and now the president. 

Meanwhile, speculation over Ban’s bid for the 2017 election continued to roil political circles. Despite the popularity, the UN official and former Korean foreign minister has been vague about his presidential ambitions. 

Local newspapers reported Wednesday that former Prime Minister Kim Jong-pil, who met the UN top official during his trip to Korea in May, told his aides that Ban appeared to “make up his mind" to run. 

The 90-year-old retired politician, once known as a power broker, has publicly endorsed Ban.

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