South Korea Election: Competing Speeches in Seoul on Final Day
(Bloomberg) -- South Korea’s presidential candidates wind up their last day on the campaign trail with Tuesday night speeches in the heart of Seoul, trying to assure voters they are the best choice to lead East Asia’s third-largest economy for the next five years.
Progressive Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party and Yoon Suk-yeol of the main conservative People Power Party will speak at venues about 500 meters apart to culminate months on the campaign trail where they have traded barbs ahead of the Wednesday vote.
North Korea, which fired two rockets in the past few days, appears to be undertaking work at its main nuclear test site for the first time in about four years, stoking security concerns just before election day. Yoon has called for taking a tougher line with Pyongyang while Lee has backed the rapprochement policies of President Moon Jae-in, also of the Democratic Party, saying building trust with Pyongyang would help bring peace to the peninsula.
The National Election Commission will allow people with Covid and in quarantine to cast votes directly into ballot boxes. This came after the commission apologized for a system it set up in early voting last week for virus protection in which some ballots were collected in shopping bags and paper boxes. This led to worries of irregularities with the count, something the commission assured would not happen.
Meanwhile, the ruling Democratic Party leader was attacked by a 70-year-old Youtuber in Seoul during campaigning, police said. Song Young-gil was hit in the head with a hammer by an assailant in traditional Korean dress apparently angered over joint U.S.-South Korean military drills. Song was discharged from a hospital Tuesday, Yonhap News Agency reported, and both candidates denounced the violence.
One day to go before the March 9 election day. The winner of the single-round, nationwide poll becomes the next president and will serve one five-year term. The new leader will be sworn in on May 10 and replaces incumbent Moon.
- Lee Jae-myung, 57, of Moon’s Democratic Party and a former governor of Gyeonggi, the country’s most populous province
- Yoon Suk-yeol, 61, of the conservative People Power Party and a former prosecutor general
- Sim Sang-jung, a minor candidate with the Justice Party who also ran unsuccessfully for president in 2017
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Polls have offered varying assessments of who is leading, with the final one last week showing both Lee and Yoon were in the 40% range, with Yoon slightly ahead. No new polling is allowed to be published from March 3 until voting ends on election day.
Yoon’s chances of winning the election received a boost when Ahn Cheol-soo, a minor conservative candidate, suspended his campaign and offered Yoon support. Most polls taken just before that happened showed the move, which unified the conservative candidates, would push Yoon ahead by a few percentage points in a hypothetical two-way race with Lee.
Another factor that may benefit Yoon is that about 54% of voters want a change of power from the progressives, according a survey by Korea Information Research released last Wednesday. The poll also said only 37.4% wanted Moon’s Democratic Party to stay in the presidential Blue House.
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