Middle-Class Koreans Turn Their Backs on GNP

      April 28, 2011 09:32

      Sohn Hak-kyu, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party, celebrates at his campaign camp on Wednesday evening after winning a key by-election in Bundang, a stronghold of the ruling Grand National Party.

      The leader of the main opposition Democratic Party Sohn Hak-kyu defeated former Grand National Party chairman Kang Jae-sup in key by-elections Wednesday in the ruling party's stronghold of Bundang, seen as a crucial gauge of voter support for the GNP. And Choi Moon-soon of the DP was also elected as governor of Gangwon Province over former MBC president Ohm Ki-young of the GNP. Choi won 50.1 percent of the votes compared to Ohm's 46.7 percent.

      The ruling GNP was victorious only in the southeastern port city of Gimhae, where its candidate Kim Tae-ho, formerly governor of South Gyeongsang Province that surrounds the city, defeated rival Lee Bong-soo of the People's Participation Party by two percentage points to garner 50.9 percent.

      The GNP was in shock, having never lost an election in Bundang since the city was built just south of Seoul in the mid-1990s. It was defeated even after mobilizing 100 of its lawmakers to rally support in the district. Voters in their 30s and 40s favoring Sohn apparently cast their ballots in droves on their way to and from work. The defeat is seen as reflecting the alienation of urban, middle class Koreans.

      Voter turnout in Bundang was 49.1 percent, higher than the 45.2 percent recorded during previous general elections.

      GNP lawmakers are worried. Eighty-one GNP lawmakers representing major election districts account for 54 percent of the party's district representatives, as opposed to seats allotted through proportional representation.

      GNP lawmakers say that if the trend continues until the presidential election next year, the ruling party may be defeated in all major election districts with the exception of Gangnam in Seoul and a few other traditional strongholds.

      The defeat is expected to deal a blow to President Lee Myung-bak's leadership in final stretch of his five-year term. The DP has been given a boost in the competition among opposition parties for a presidential candidate with Sohn's victory in Bundang and the defeat of former health and welfare minister Rhyu Si-mi in Gimhae.

      The GNP was victorious in 14 of the 28 regions, while the DP captured seven. The Liberty Forward Party won three, the Democratic Labor Party two and independent candidates two.

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