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(LEAD) Former Gyeonggi governor to skip Saenuri leadership race

All News 10:46 July 27, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS more info in last 2 paras)

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- Kim Moon-soo, a former governor of Gyeonggi Province who has been cited as one of the prominent contenders for the ruling party's leadership election, said Wednesday that he will not join the race.

In a statement, Kim, who was elected to parliament three times in the past, said he will not be running in the chairmanship election slated for next month, and instead will devote himself for the betterment of South Korea and the Saenuri Party.

Political pundits said the move apparently came as Kim has hinted he may run in the presidential race slated for next year. Saenuri's law stipulates a party leader must step down from his or her post 18 months before the presidential election. South Korea's next presidential election is slated for Dec. 20, 2017.

Party members have been eyeing Kim's candidacy amid on-going factional infighting that has hurt Saenuri's standing. Kim is usually classified as a member of the non-Park Geun-hye faction, although his real affiliation is ambiguous, with some even referring to him as pro-Park.

So far, six members confirmed their candidacy, with three of them being from the non-Park faction. Rep. Lee Jung-hyun is considered the only pro-Park candidate at present, although Rep. Hong Moon-jong, another Park loyalist, may make a bid soon.

The non-Park faction has yet to push for a single candidate to compete with the pro-Park group.

The Minjoo Party of Korea, meanwhile, also plans to hold a convention on Aug. 27 to vote on a new leader.

So far, four candidates vowed to join the race, including Lee Jong-kul, a five-term lawmaker. The major opposition party plans to conduct a primary so that only three candidates will campaign for party's top leadership position.

colin@yna.co.kr
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