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6 outgoing ministers ‘strong candidates’ for general elections: ruling party

Candidacy of Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon also viewed as possible

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Dec. 5, 2023 - 14:55

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Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho (left) holds hands with Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon as they enter a Cabinet meeting at the Government Complex Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap) Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho (left) holds hands with Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon as they enter a Cabinet meeting at the Government Complex Seoul on Friday. (Yonhap)

Six soon-to-be ex-ministers from President Yoon Suk Yeol’s Cabinet have been identified as “strong candidates” to represent the ruling party in the 2024 general elections, a party spokesperson said Tuesday.

“The six soon-to-be ex-ministers, including Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transport Won Hee-ryong, are currently being considered as strong candidates to represent our party for the parliamentary elections slated for April next year,” a spokesperson for the People Power Party told The Korea Herald via phone.

The spokesperson’s remarks confirm the widespread view that the ruling party is likely to task the soon-to-be former ministers replaced in Monday’s major Cabinet reshuffle with handling key election initiatives. The six were: Finance Minister Choo Kyung-ho, Land Minister Won, Veterans Minister Park Min-shik, SMEs and Startups Minister Lee Young, Agriculture Minister Chung Hwang-keun and Oceans Minister Cho Seung-hwan.

Those in a government post must resign by Jan. 11 to be eligible for candidacy in the general elections, which will be held in April 2024.

Choo has been anticipated by the ruling party to run in Daegu's Dalseong for a third time. Choo was first elected in 2016 to represent Dalseong and was reelected in 2020 before assuming a role in the Cabinet as deputy prime minister and finance minister in May 2022.

Choo recently said that he "may return to Dalseong-gun by the end of this year." Daegu, South Korea’s fourth-largest city by population, is traditionally a political stronghold for the conservative party.

The ruling party has expressed strong support for Land Minister Won to compete for a Seoul seat.

Won, already a three-term lawmaker, has also recently expressed willingness to run in hotly contested Seoul to Ihn Yohan, the chief of the ruling People Power Party’s reform committee. Ihn -- a third-generation descendant of a US missionary who gave humanitarian aid during Japanese colonial rule and a party outsider -- currently leads the ruling party’s reform committee, which was formed on Oct. 26 to lay out a vision for realigning the party for the 2024 general election.

SMEs and Startups Minister Lee has been rumored to be eyeing Seoul’s affluent neighborhood of Seocho-gu, near Gangnam.

Other potential candidates were rumored to be tasked with tackling areas where the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea has maintained a strong grip in recent years.

Veterans Minister Park is likely to run for candidacy in Bundang, Gyeonggi Province, where Rep. Kim Byung-wook of the Democratic Party of Korea is serving his second term. Agriculture Minister Chung and Oceans Minister Cho were projected to tackle Cheonan, South Chungcheong Province, and Saha-gu in Busan, respectively.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon, who was not subjected to Monday’s reshuffle, could also be a viable candidate and a possible last-minute surprise, observers said. If Han seeks to enter the race, he must announce his resignation from the Cabinet by the Jan. 11 deadline.

Regarding Han's possible candidacy, the ruling party spokesperson said "it is too early at the moment to confirm the matter."