By Duncan Mackay
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year

June 5 - Pyeongchang are confident that their bid for the 2018 Olympics and Paralympics will retain strong political support despite the surprise election of Lee Kwang-jae (pictured), a member of South Korea's opposition party, as the new Governor of Gangwon Province.

Lee, who had campaigned for a joint bid between South and North Korea when Pyeongchang bid unsuccessfully for the 2014 Olympics, replaced Jin Sun Kim, who had to step down from the role after serving three terms.

Lee, a 45-year-old who was often referred to as right-hand man of former President Roh Moo-hyun, was elected as the first liberal to become Governor of the Province after coming from behind in the polls.

Lee worked on Roh’s Presidential election camp as well as at the Blue House before becoming a legislator himself in 2004, representing Pyeongchang.

He was re-elected in 2008, but last year announced his retirement from politics after prosecutors opened an investigation into his alleged involvement in "Park Yeon-cha Gate", an illegal lobbying scam.

The case is still under judicial review, but if Lee is found guilty and fined more than 100 million won (£57,000/$83,000) he will lose his new position.

Chung Mong-joon, the leader of the Grand National Party (GNP) who is also a vice-president of FIFA, has branded  Lee a "corrupt" politician.

Despite the scandal, Lee quickly returned to politics and received the strong backing of the Democratic Party in his run for the Governor’s office, which many political observers in South Korea believe could be the launchpad for a future bid to become Korean President.

A statement from Pyeongchang 2018 welcomed the election of Lee.

It said: "The organising committee of the 2018 bid from Pyeongchang welcomes the new Governor's commitment to the bid and to securing the winter Olympic and Paralympic Games for Korea.

"Bid chairman Yang Ho Cho and the Governor will speak shortly to plan their cooperation and partnership going forward."

Kim had been expected to retain a leading role within the bid but whether that will be as high-profile as originally planned may be in doubt now that a major political opponent has replaced him.

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