Five little known facts about Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu

TAIPEI (The China Post) — Not widely known to the public before he flipped Kaohsiung, a traditional Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) stronghold, in last year’s mayoral election, Han Kuo-yu (韓國瑜) is the presidential candidate for the opposition Kuomintang (KMT).

The self-styled mayor graduated from the Republic of China Military Academy. He studied English literature at Soochow University and obtained a Master of Laws in East Asian studies at National Chengchi University.

Han was a member of the parliament (Legislative Yuan) from 1993 to 2002, representing a portion of Taipei County for three terms. He served for a time as a KMT caucus leader.

After a standstill, he became the general manager of Taipei Agricultural Products Marketing Corporation in 2013 and contested the Kuomintang chairmanship in 2017, losing to Wu Den-yih (also Kaohsiung mayor from 1990 to 1998).

Han Kuo-yu leaves a rally in Tainan on Jan. 4, 2020. (CNA)

Despite serving only six months of his mayoral term, he announced his presidential bid in June and surprised voters by taking a leave from the mayor’s office in October 2019.

His reasoning was simple: he needs to focus on the presidential election. With the same observation in mind, he called on President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to take some time off to run for re-election.

His fans find him charismatic and down to earth. His promises for workers’ rights were praised among many who felt hurt by Tsai’s labor reforms. He has openly supported the 1992 Consensus, an idea that is still in dispute in Taiwan.

A figure of controversy, Hans has often dominated news cycles since before he returned to politics for the mayoral race with his outspokenness and crude jokes. Some put him side by side with U.S. President Donald Trump and other populist leaders. He denounces news media he doesn’t like, lashes out at their alleged substandard, ethics and motives, and considers him himself a victim of an ongoing smear campaign.