Former Conservative Leader Seeks Election in Hwaseong’s Liberal Stronghold

HWASEONG, South Korea — Lee Jun-seok, the former leader of the ruling conservative People Power Party and current leader of the New Reform Party, has declared his candidacy for a parliamentary seat in Hwaseong, a city near Seoul known for its liberal leanings. This announcement marks a significant shift in Lee's political career, targeting a constituency traditionally challenging for conservative candidates.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Lee will contest the seat for Dongtan 2 New Town in the forthcoming April 10 elections. In a conversation with Yonhap News, Lee acknowledged the difficulties conservatives face in Hwaseong but emphasized the city's potential for growth and his commitment to developing its education and transport infrastructure. "Hwaseong is a difficult area for conservatives and it's like a grave to them, but it is the youngest city that will produce many future growth engines for the Republic of Korea," Lee stated.

The move to Hwaseong comes after a tumultuous period for Lee, following the formation and rapid dissolution of the "big tent" New Reform Party, a merger between his conservative faction and a group of former Democratic Party members led by ex-Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon. The merger, aimed at consolidating opposition forces ahead of the elections, ended in a split merely 11 days later due to leadership and policy disagreements.

At 38, Lee Jun-seok has made history as the youngest leader of a major political party in South Korea. Despite previous unsuccessful bids for a parliamentary seat in Seoul's northern district, Lee's new venture in Hwaseong signals a strategic attempt to reposition himself within the nation's political landscape, especially in an area that could be pivotal for future conservative growth.

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