Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the People Power Party (Yonhap)
Rep. Hong Joon-pyo of the main opposition People Power Party is quickly gaining support, rising as a potential contender for next year’s presidential election that has been largely dominated by two prominent figures from each side.
A poll of 1,003 eligible voters from the Korea Society Opinion Institute showed Monday that Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party was the most favored candidate with 28 percent. Gov. Lee’s lead was followed by former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl with the People Power Party at 26.4 percent.
The two figures have been considered the strongest candidates for next year’s presidential election, with attention focused on whether they will make it through the primaries and how the battle would unfold between the pair in coming months.
The poll also showed that Hong has made significant gains, receiving 13.6 percent, up 4.2 percentage points from a week earlier.
The five-term lawmaker announced his presidential bid in August after losing the 2017 election against President Moon Jae-in, pledging to “correct the country heading in the wrong direction.”
The prosecutor-turned-politician has been openly critical of the Moon administration for launching “populist” welfare programs and increasing government debt.
He has made some pledges to appeal to the younger generation, including easing restrictions on cryptocurrency trading and bringing back state-run exams for high-ranking civil service positions and bar exams for lawyers.
The poll showed that Hong was widely supported by younger voters in their 20s and 30s, with the lawmaker gaining the highest support of 26.3 percent from those in their 20s and the second-highest rating of 19.5 percent for those in their 30s, trailing Lee’s 25 percent.
While Hong is still behind Yoon, he still has a shot at winning the party’s ticket for the March election, as support for Yoon has been suffering in recent weeks.
Yoon’s support has dimmed after a round of accusations and continued reports of investigations involving him emerged. His support rating also took a hit from a series of controversial remarks.
The former chief prosecutor is facing allegations that he ordered a high-ranking prosecutor to prepare to lodge criminal complaints for the opposition party against high-profile, pro-government figures ahead of the general elections last year.