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Gov. An pressed to win in Chungcheong provinces primary

To keep his chances of winning the main liberal camp’s presidential nomination race, South Chungcheong Province Gov. An Hee-jung must score a resounding victory in Wednesday‘s primary on his home turf.

A relatively younger and moderate liberal contender, the governor garnered 20 percent of votes in the Democratic Party of Korea’s first regional primary in the traditional liberal stronghold of Gwangju on Monday, far below the day’s victor Moon Jae-in at 60 percent.

Presidential hopeful and South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung visits Tongdosa, a Buddhist temple, in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Presidential hopeful and South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung visits Tongdosa, a Buddhist temple, in Yangsan, South Gyeongsang Province on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

An was closely chased by Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, who came in third with 19.4 percent of votes, just 0.6 percentage point behind him. Goyang Mayor Choi Sung garnered 0.4 percent.

With Moon sweeping the race in the Honam region -- Gwangju and North and South Jeolla Provinces -- Gov. An has become even more pressed to gain votes in the next primary Wednesday, which will be held on his home turf of South and North Chungcheong Provinces.

“I have secured a bridgehead today, with 20 percent of support from the Honam region,” An said after the primary results came out Monday. “I will turn the tables by winning the upcoming races in the Chungcheong and Yeongnam regions in the southeastern part of the peninsula.”

On the following day, the 51-year-old aspirant reinforced his idea of forming a cooperative government, targeting his in-party rivals.

“One of the evils of society that needs to be wiped out is dichotomous thinking and forming factions,” An wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday.

For An and the other two contenders to have a chance in the race, each has to either secure a majority of the votes during the remaining primaries or stop Moon from gaining over 50 percent of the votes.

South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung (Yonhap)
South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung (Yonhap)

On Monday, the last primary results for the metropolitan regions, including Seoul and Gangwon Province, will emerge to finalize the party’s standard-bearer. If there is no majority winner, they will hold a run-off on April 8 to decide on the presidential candidate.

An’s chances in the next race seem to be right on the line.

In local pollster Realmeter’s data released Monday, An is only slightly ahead of Moon, with 29.6 percent of support in the Chungcheong provinces, with Moon trailing by just 0.4 percentage point. Mayor Lee holds 11.2 percent support.

An’s camp still showed strong desire to win back voters in the remaining primaries.

“Moon has gotten the maximum votes from the Honam region, where there are some staunch Moon supporters.” Rep. Ki Dong-min, chief secretary for An’s election camp, said. “The 20 percent support rating from the region for Gov. An is very meaningful.”

The Honam region, which is symbolic for its pro-democracy movement against an authoritarian regime in 1980, is a traditional stronghold of left-wing parties.

Rep. Ki, however, acknowledged the importance of winning votes in the Chungcheong provinces and expressed An and the camp’s strong will for victory, saying, “We have to win in the next primary.”

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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