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Korea enters full election mode

Loudspeakers, posters permitted until eve of election day

March 28, 2024 - 15:33 By Son Ji-hyoung
Election officials affix a poster showing candidates to a wall in the Jongno constituency in Seoul on Thursday, as the official campaigning period for the April 10 general election started. (Yonhap)

South Korea shifted into full-scale election mode Thursday, with political parties launching their official campaigns to stretch until the general election on April 10 that is expected to shape the political landscape for the next four years.

For the next 13 days, eligible candidates representing their parties are allowed to use loudspeakers and trucks with megaphones for campaigning activities in open spaces from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., according to the National Election Commission on Thursday. The trucks may continue campaigning activity until 11 p.m., as long as the loudspeakers are turned off by 9 p.m.

Candidates and their supporters may don sashes on their shoulders and hold placards to indicate the candidate.

Campaign posters displaying images of the candidates with their respective names and assigned numbers on the ballot are being put up at 83,630 locations nationwide. Public debates between candidates are to be broadcast starting Thursday until April 4.

As the period of campaigning commences, heads of the parties launched the official campaigning activities.

In their visits to endorse party candidates prior to Thursday, they were not allowed to use loudspeakers when speaking to crowds in an open space.

Democratic Party of Korea Chair Rep. Lee Jae-myung (left) and People Power Party Interim Chair Han Dong-hoon (Yonhap)

At midnight, the ruling People Power Party's interim Chair Han Dong-hoon kicked off the campaign period in Garak Market, a wholesale agricultural goods market in southern Seoul.

Later Thursday, Han went to multiple districts of Seoul, such as Mapo-gu, Seodaemun-gu, Yongsan-gu and Seongdong-gu, among others, as well as cities in northern Gyeonggi Province, including Namyangju.

In Mapo-gu, Han told the public he is "determined to let the criminals face consequences," referring to Democratic Party of Korea Chair Rep. Lee Jae-myung, who now faces multiple corruption allegations, and Cho Kuk, the former justice minister who founded his own party after being convicted of academic fraud.

The party's Floor Leader Rep. Yun Jae-ok launched his campaigning activities in Daegu, a conservative stronghold.

Yun later came to western Seoul districts, such as Yangcheon-gu and Guro-gu, on Thursday afternoon.

The aforementioned Democratic Party Chair Rep. Lee started his campaign at his home turf of Gyeyang-gu in Incheon at 7 a.m. by greeting people on their commute to work.

Lee and the party's Floor Leader Rep. Hong Ihk-pyo met at Yongsan Station in Seoul at 10 a.m. Lee moved on to visit Seoul's Seongdong-gu and Dongjak-gu, then returned to Incheon later Thursday.

"Consumer prices are flying high because the (President Yoon Suk Yeol) administration is incompetent, and (Yoon's) insanity has posed a threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula," Lee told the crowd at Yongsan Station.

Kim Boo-kyum, a former prime minister during the previous Moon Jae-in administration, rallied support for the Democratic Party's candidates in southern regions of the Korean Peninsula, including Busan, Changwon and Hadong-gun of South Gyeongsang Province and Gwangyang, South Jeolla Province. Kim now co-heads the Democratic Party's general election commission.

Rep. Chung Woon-chun shaved his head and locked himself inside a wooden cage cart as he kicked off his official campaigning in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Some candidates sought to steal the limelight.

Rep. Chung Woon-chun, a candidate representing the People Power Party, shaved his head and locked himself inside a wooden cage cart as he officially kicked off his campaigning in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province. Chung is currently serving through the proportional representation system, and is running now for direct election.

Chung said he felt "great responsibility for my failure to notice Jeonju citizens' frustration with the Yoon Suk Yeol administration," and pledged to negotiate with Yoon directly if he is elected to be a three-term lawmaker representing the Jeonju-B constituency.

Chung, a conservative candidate, is contending with the incumbent Rep. Kang Sung-hee of the minor progressive Jinbo Party and Lee Sung-yoon, a former prosecutor who was recruited by the main opposition Democratic Party, in the liberal stronghold.

The National Assembly has 300 seats in total. Each of the 254 electoral districts across the country will have one lawmaker representing them. As of Saturday, 699 candidates from 21 parties will vie for the 254 directly elected seats in the parliament.

Another 46 seats are up for grabs between 253 candidates from 38 parties, through which lawmakers are elected under the system of proportional representation.

Meanwhile, some 147,000 overseas Koreans in 115 countries who are eligible to vote started casting their ballots Wednesday. They will be able to vote by visiting one of 220 designated polling stations, mostly at Korean embassies and consulates overseas, until Monday.

In Korea, those who wish to vote before the election holiday on April 10 may visit their designated polling station on April 5 or 6.