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Liberal presidential contenders vie for support in home turf

Presidential hopefuls of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea made full-fledged efforts Friday to garner votes in the party’s stronghold, which is likely to sway the outcome of the imminent primary.

For the first round of the scheduled four primary votes, the result of which is due Monday, the four contenders hurried to the liberal-leaning Honam region -- the nation’s southwest Gwangju and Jeolla provinces -- to set out electoral pledges targeting the area.

“As a prepared aspirant, I will lead on social reform and promote balanced regional development along with Honam region,” said leading presidential aspirant Moon Jae-in -- urging Honam voters to support him as they did in the last 2012 presidential election -- at the seventh primary debate co-hosted by six local broadcasters. 

Presidential hopefuls of the Democratic Party of Korea. From left: Goyang Mayor Choi Sung, Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, former party leader Moon Jae-in and South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung. (Yonhap)
Presidential hopefuls of the Democratic Party of Korea. From left: Goyang Mayor Choi Sung, Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, former party leader Moon Jae-in and South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung. (Yonhap)

Moon, who is prominent in local polls on the election, hopes to win the majority vote. The region chose his rival, centralist Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party, in last year’s general election.

“Though it is difficult to predict the result, I would like to make an overwhelming victory in Honam and confirm my candidacy,” he added.

Running for presidency for the second time, Moon declared his bid Friday, releasing three videos online and vowing for a complete regime change.

The former chairman also pledged to install a department for the region inside Cheong Wa Dae or the presidential office if elected, to deal with Saemanguem Development, a reclamation project which has been causing massive environmental and financial concerns in the region.

South Chungcheong Gov. An Hee-jung, Moon’s runner-up rival, reiterated his slogan of “grand solidarity” in an effort to halt Moon’s lead.

Underlining the importance of a balanced regional development, An vowed to eliminate the historical regional conflict between the Jeolla provinces and the conservative-leaning Gyeongsang provinces.

Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, whose political base is largely in the metropolitan Gyeonggi Province, focused on employment, pledging to increase jobs and to establish an international human rights organization there.

The next regional primary is slated for Wednesday in the Chungcheong provinces and the Democratic Party is to announce the final result on April 3. In the absence of a majority winner, a runoff vote will be held to decide the final runner on April 8.

According to local pollster Gallup on Friday, Moon topped the list of contenders with 31 percent of support, followed by Gov. An who posted at 17 percent. Ahn of the centrist People’s Party garnered 10 percent of support while Mayor Lee stood at 8 percent. Conservative aspirant South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong Joon-pyo got 6 percent of support in the survey conducted on 1,007 citizens from Tuesday to Thursday.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)
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