SEOUL, July 20 (Yonhap) -- At least eight lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) are expected to compete in the liberal party's leadership election next month as two-day candidate registration began Friday.
The DP plans to hold its convention on Aug. 25 to elect a new chief who will replace the incumbent chairwoman Choo Mi-ae and five Supreme Council members, according to party officials. The primary will be held next Thursday.
At least eight lawmakers are likely to run for the party's chief post, with attention focused on whether Lee Hae-chan, a seven-term veteran lawmaker, will join the race.
Lee, who served as the prime minister from 2004-2006 under late former President Roh Moo-hyun, has been recently at the center of the focus after Interior Minister Kim Boo-kyum has decided not to run for the DP's chairmanship.
Kim was widely regarded as a strong potential contender for the post amid rumors about a presidential Cabinet reshuffle. But he announced Tuesday that he will not join the race.
DP members are divided about Lee's possible candidacy with his supporters hoping that Lee, a heavyweight lawmaker in the ruling party, could play a key role in better setting its relations with the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
Lee is reportedly set to announce his stance later in the day.
Other potential candidates include five-term lawmaker Lee Jong-kul and four-term lawmakers Kim Jin-pyo and Song Young-gil.
A new DP chief will be tasked with buttressing the government's drive for reforms as President Moon Jae-in has entered his second year in office.
The DP clinched a huge victory in the June local elections and parliamentary by-elections on the back of strong public support for Moon.
But the government was hit by an uproar over steep hikes in the minimum wage amid bleak job growth records.
Last week, a government-mandated council decided to raise the minimum wage by 10.9 percent to 8,350 won (US$7.40) per hour next year after a 16.4 percent rise this year.
Opposition parties have lashed out at the government's drive for "income-led growth," for which hikes in the minimum wage are viewed as one of the integral factors in boosting households' income.
Source: Yonhap News Agency