Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06SEOUL3670
2006-10-26 06:17:00
UNCLASSIFIED
Embassy Seoul
Cable title:  

OCTOBER 25 BY-ELECTIONS: ANOTHER DEFEAT FOR RULING

Tags:  PGOV KS 
pdf how-to read a cable
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FM AMEMBASSY SEOUL
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INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 1419
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RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/COMUSKOREA J5 SEOUL KOR
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RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
UNCLAS SEOUL 003670 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KS
SUBJECT: OCTOBER 25 BY-ELECTIONS: ANOTHER DEFEAT FOR RULING
PARTY

UNCLAS SEOUL 003670

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KS
SUBJECT: OCTOBER 25 BY-ELECTIONS: ANOTHER DEFEAT FOR RULING
PARTY


1. (SBU) SUMMARY: In another crushing defeat for the ruling
Uri Party, the two National Assembly seats up for grabs in
the October 25 by-elections went overwhelmingly to the
opposition. To add insult to injury, in Incheon, the Uri
Party candidate, a close friend of Uri Chairman Kim Geun-tae,
came in third in the election as the minor Democratic Labor
Party (DLP) candidate came in second. The election results
leave the Uri Party with the most seats in the National
Assembly, but little else. As each defeat piles up, the Uri
leadership continues to lose standing as the jockeying for
party realignment, likely to occur in late December or early
January, 2007, intensifies. During this time of heightened
tension on the Peninsula, the voter turnout was higher than
in recent by-elections. END SUMMARY.

INCHEON ASSEMBLY SEAT-GNP WINS BIG
--------------


2. (SBU) Long-time political hand Lee Won-bok ran and won in
Incheon, known for its history of labor movement and record
of poor economic development. He replaced a Uri Party
lawmaker who lost his seat after being convicted of illegal
fundraising. Lee garnered 57.7 percent of the vote compared
with 18.5 percent for the DLP candidate. The Uri candidate,
a former Blue House aide and long time colleague and friend
of Uri Chairman Kim Geun-tae, Park Woo-sup, came in a distant
third with 12.3 percent of the vote.


3. (SBU) According to Uri lawmaker Yum Dong-yun, who took
time from his campaigning to talk with poloff in Park's
campaign office on October 24, while victory was never
expected in the race, Kim Geun-tae's gaffe on October 20 in
Kaesong sealed candidate Park's fate. Candidate Park Woo-sup
told poloff that while he knew there was not a strong chance
for winning the seat, it was up to him to work to get the
best result for the party. On October 24, he said that
through personal efforts, he hoped to make the race
competitive. His efforts were not enough and in fact many
attributed his personal relationship to Kim as a contributing
factor in the embarrassing loss.


4. (SBU) On October 24, there were several Uri lawmakers in
Incheon stumping for Park and Park himself was hoarse from
his efforts. He told poloff he was committed to campaign
till midnight, when the campaign period officially ended.
Contrasting with the hopeless mood in the Uri camp, upon
visiting the GNP candidate on October 24, poloff found an

entirely different atmosphere. GNP Chairman Kang Jae-sup
came to Incheon and Kang, candidate Lee and several other GNP
officials campaigned until 6pm and then decided to call it a
day and dine together to celebrate. In several campaign
speeches poloff heard, Lee made the expected pledges to do
his best, while Kang struck a stronger stance, asking voters
to "strike out at President Roh" with their vote for Lee on
October 25.


5. (SBU) Lee will likely take his seat in the Assembly on
November 2 or 3 and he told poloff on October 26 that his
victory showed that the people of Incheon felt that the Roh
government had "no answers" to the various economic ills they
faced. He added that the through the cabinet reshuffle the
Roh government should take full responsibility for its
failures and change policy, not just the people who make the
policy.

HAENAM-JINDO: DEMOCRATIC PARTY STRONG
--------------


6. (SBU) In Haenam and Jindo, where the former incumbent was
kicked out for illegal wiretapping, the opposition Democratic
Party (DP) candidate Choi Il-byung, a professor at Daebul
University in Mokpo, beat the Uri Party candidate by a large
margin with 62.5 percent of the vote. Leading Uri Party
lawmaker Choi Jae-cheon who hails from Haenam and was in the
region campaigning on October 24 told poloff that the result
was expected and that to keep the DP from attacking the Uri
Party in the coming months, many in the Uri Party were
pushing to make a quick move to join with the DP. The Uri
Party held an emergency breakfast meeting on October 26 to
discuss such a move.


7. (SBU) DP's Deputy Chair Shin Joong-shik told poloff on
October 26 that the convincing Assembly victory coupled with

the first non-Jeolla victory in Seoul in the July 26
by-election meant that DP was "on the rise" and that Uri was
"about to collapse." He said that political party
restructuring would occur in December and the merger should
be with DP as the lead partner since they had a convincing
base in the Jeolla Provinces and also a foothold in Seoul.
The newly elected Choi echoed Shin's remarks and told poloff
on October 26 that his victory showed that the DP would be
capable of leading the way in any realignment and the DP was
a true national party.


COMMENT
--------------


8. (SBU) The Roh government and the ruling Uri Party are
reeling from non-stop electoral defeats and there is no end
in sight. The results of this by-election mean that the DP
should be able to dictate more of the terms of the likely
merger with the Uri Party. At this point, after five
straight by-election defeats, the Uri Party can not claim
strong support anywhere in Korea while the DP has solidified
its hold over the southwest Jeolla region. That said, Uri
leadership knows they have dwindling support but will work to
play their 141 seats in the Assembly to their advantage.


9. (SBU) The October 25 by-elections will further embolden
the opposition GNP in the National Assembly. On foreign
policy, Roh's candidates to replace FM Ban Ki-moon, DefMin
Yoon Kwang-oong and Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok will
face stronger resistance in the National Assembly hearings,
which is why the Blue House will probably end up naming
tested bureaucrats to some of these posts.
VERSHBOW