Moon Jae-in, a leading presidential hopeful from the Democratic Party, sought to further enhance his foothold in the party's political hometown on Monday, offering political consolations and economic benefits to the region long considered discriminated against or even persecuted.
While visiting Gwangju, the traditional powerbase of the liberal majority party, Moon said he, if elected, will designate a controversial song as the official song for an annual state-sponsored ceremony commemorating the 1980 democratic movement in the city located some 380 kilometers southwest of Seoul.
Moon Jae-in (at podium), a presidential hopeful from the main opposition Democratic Party, offers his campaign pledges while visiting the southeastern city of Gwangju on March 20, 2017. (Yonhap)
The song, "March for the Beloved," is already played at the ceremony each year, but earlier attempts to designate it as the official song failed, largely due to opposition from conservative parties.
Designating the song, apparently beloved by many in Gwangju, may highlight an official acknowledgment, if not an apology, from the government for its armed crackdown on the democratic movement that left hundreds of people killed or missing and over 3,000 others injured.
Moon's campaign pledges for Gwangju and the surrounding South and North Jeolla provinces included various economic projects, such as building a new energy valley that he said will house some 500 new energy-related firms.
The frontrunner in all recent polls on the presidential election also promised new roads and investment to make the southwestern region more accessible, a prerequisite for companies to commit fresh investment to the region.
The Jeolla provinces, often referred to as the Honam region, are often considered one of the least developed areas in the country as they are believed to have been long neglected under former conservative administrations.
"The most important way and reason for me to implement what I have offered in policy pledges is to gain power to do so. I will certainly honor my promises if you will only give us the power," he said, according to his party.
Moon currently faces three other contenders in the party primaries. The Democratic Party, currently the single largest party in the unicameral National Assembly, is expected to name its single nominee early next month. (Yonhap)