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Korean Peninsula

S. Korean presidential candidates set to wrap up campaign

YONHAP | Tue,2017-05-09


Leading presidential candidates were set to wrap up their campaign Monday, one day before voters go to the polls in South Korea's rare presidential by-election.

At least three of the five party candidates claimed sure victory in the election following the unprecedented impeachment of the president over a corruption scandal.

Their official 22-day campaign period was set to end at midnight, and all five candidates seemed intent on living the last day of campaigning to its fullest.

Front-runner Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party began the day in Seoul before making a trip to the country's second-largest city Busan.

Busan, a port city located 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, apparently holds the most swing votes for the liberal candidate as it is his political base and at the same time considered the traditional home of conservatives.

The 64-year-old was also scheduled to make brief stops in Daegu, another stronghold of conservative parties, located 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, and Cheongju, a city located in the central North Chungcheong Province, according to party officials.

He was scheduled to return to the capital for one final stage in the downtown Gwanghwamun area, where hundreds of thousands of protesters had gathered each week to demand the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye over corruption allegations that involved her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil.


Presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party (L) rallies support while staging an election campaign in his political hometown of Gwangju, located some 330 kilometers south of Seoul, on May 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

Park was removed on March 10 by a Constitutional Court ruling that upheld the parliamentary impeachment over the corruption allegations, setting the stage for the first presidential by-election in the country's history.

Speaking in a press conference in Seoul, Moon asked for an "overwhelming victory" with a majority of votes in Tuesday's election, calling it a first step toward mending a national divide caused by the ouster of the former conservative leader.

Earlier polls had placed the liberal candidate in first place, but his approval rating has never breached the 50-percent mark.

Hong Joon-pyo, the leading conservative candidate from the Liberty Korea Party, on the other hand, also claimed sure victory in the election, insisting his approval rating has surpassed that of Moon since the election watchdog began prohibiting the publication of opinion polls last week.

"The conservatives will again join forces to win the election with 40 percent of the votes against 38 percent of the liberals," he wrote on his social network service account on Sunday.

Claiming victory in an upcoming election is often seen as an attempt to herd voters, especially those with swing votes.

Hong also sought to defend his power base from his liberal rival Moon, traveling to Busan and Daegu before returning to Seoul.

His election campaign was scheduled to end in Seoul's college district of Hongdae.


Hong Joon-pyo (R), the presidential candidate of the conservative Liberty Korea Party, shakes hands with supporters while visiting the southeastern city of Ulsan on May 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party was focusing his last minute efforts on Daejeon and the Chungcheong provinces in the central region that are often considered swing states in elections.

He began the last day of his campaign trail in Daejeon, located some 150 kilometers south of Seoul, before canvassing through other parts of the central provinces.

The last poll on the presidential election published Wednesday had Ahn and Hong tied at 18.6 percent, trailing Moon with 42.4 percent.

Ahn, too, claimed to have moved past his main rivals, insisting he will win the election with around 40 percent of the votes.


Ahn Cheol-soo (R), the presidential candidate of the People's Party, shakes hands with a merchant at a traditional marketplace in Garak-dong, Seoul, on May 8, 2017. (Yonhap)

Yoo Seong-min of the splinter conservative Bareun Party began his day in Daejeon. He, too, planned to finish in the capital, canvassing through the streets of Seoul until the very last minute, his party said.

Sim Sang-jeung, the most progressive among the five leading candidates, planned to set a fresh, and possibly unprecedented record, staging a speech marathon with her supporters in Seoul's bustling college district of Shinchon.

The Justice Party candidate has named it a "filibuster" stumping that will start at noon and end just before the 22-day official campaigning period for the presidential election comes to an end at midnight.

Sim insisted a regime change to a liberal government from a conservative one was certain, and that votes cast in her support will not be wasted as they will show a greater demand for change.

Voting will begin at 6 a.m. Tuesday and end at 8 p.m.

The National Election Commission has said a winner will likely emerge around 3 a.m. the next day, while the official declaration of the winner is expected to be made after 8 a.m.