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Seoul mayor resigns as promised

Oh Se-hoon wanted to limit free school lunches, but his referendum was invalidated because of low turnout.

August 25, 2011|By John M. Glionna | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon bows at a news conference announcing his resignation.
Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon bows at a news conference announcing his resignation. (Truth Leem, Reuters )

Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon announced his resignation Friday, following through on his pledge to quit if voters failed to cast ballots in a city referendum that was invalidated due to a low turnout.

"I will fulfill my duty by resigning to minimize the controversy in political circles," he said at a City Hall press conference. "I believe this is the will of the citizens."

In recent days, Oh had demonstrated that he was far off the mark when it came to gauging voter preferences.

The 50-year-old mayor, once considered a candidate for next year's presidential election, on Sunday gave an emotional press conference in which he wiped away tears, vowing to step down if voters did not respond to his call to support his agenda.

He wanted to limit free school lunches and take students from wealthy families out of the gratis cafeteria line. But only 25% of Seoul voters went to the polls this week, far fewer than the 33% Oh needed to validate the referendum.

Critics called the move political grandstanding and even party faithful advised Oh against making a threat to quit. But he went ahead with his press conference before the vote, even getting on his knees and bowing to implore voters to the polls.

Apparently, few were listening.

Jung-yoon Choi in the Times' Seoul Bureau contributed to this report.

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