South Korea’s Lee wins ruling party primary in scandal-overshadowed presidential race

SEOUL, Oct. 10 (Reuters) – Lee Jae-myung became the presidential candidate for South Korea’s ruling party on Sunday, hoping to overcome a real estate scandal and rally national support as Tory opponents trade spades against anal acupuncture and fortune tellers.

Lee, governor of Gyeonggi province and underdog of the party often critical of incumbent President Moon Jae-in, sealed his primary victory to represent the Democratic Party in the March 9 presidential election. Moon cannot stand for re-election under Korean law.

The leading candidate among a fractured group of mainstream conservative People’s Power, Yoon Seok-youl, has been caught up in his own scandals – including murky ties to an anal acupuncturist – and criticism he is basing on good-tellers. adventure.

“Previously, it was at most one candidate who had experienced such scandals, but the first two are both involved in scandals in this election, which shows that South Korea is regressing politically,” Lee Jun- han, professor of political science at Incheon National University.

Lee got 50.29% of the vote in an 11-round primary that ended on Sunday. His closest rival and initially establishment favorite, former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, finished with 39.14%.

His image as an outsider was once seen as a handicap to establishment competitors with closer ties to the outgoing Moon, but Lee rose to prominence with an aggressive response to the pandemic and a populist economic agenda.

Harassed by a scandal involving a residential development plan when he was mayor of Seongnam in 2015, Lee used his acceptance speech to promise progress on political issues, including pushing for a universal basic income and more affordable housing amid skyrocketing house prices.

Next year’s election represents “the ultimate battle against the corrupt establishment,” he said.

Prosecutors and police investigated the Seongnam Project amid controversy over Lee’s links to a former official, who was arrested for corruption related to the deal.

Lee has denied any wrongdoing. His office did not respond to requests for comment.

Housing scandals are a particularly sensitive issue for voters in South Korea, where house prices have soared beyond the reach of many. Lee’s party has been damaged by allegations of real estate speculation.

On the other hand, Tory Yoon – a former attorney general who joined the opposition after rising to prominence in a political fight with President Moon – was coerced in a televised debate last week to distance himself from an unlicensed anal acupuncturist.

Yoon denied knowing the acupuncturist and said he “rarely” meets fortune tellers or shamans, who practice an ethnic Korean animist religion that dates back to prehistoric times and is widely consulted in South Korea.

The Yonhap News Agency said prosecutors were investigating a political interference scandal possibly involving Yoon. He cited him as calling the allegations a “political plot” to derail his candidacy.

Yoon denied any wrongdoing while he was a prosecutor. His campaign did not respond to requests for comment from Reuters.

His rival in the PPP primary, Hong Joon-pyo, on Saturday called a possible clash between Lee and Yoon a “criminal election.”

A combined poll of four voting services last week found Lee leading Yoon 44% to 33% in a hypothetical two-way race.

Conservatives made gains in local elections in April as the Democratic Party was mired in scandals, but wrangling in the primaries over things like shamanism threatens their chances of capitalizing in regular elections, Yang Seung-ham said. , longtime political analyst.

Reporting by Josh Smith and Sangmi Cha; Additional reporting by Heejung Jung; Editing by William Mallard and Muralikumar Anantharaman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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