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Park, Moon struggle for upperhand

Candidates turn to allies for help as negative campaigns continue

Presidential candidates Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri Party and Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party are struggling to break from their status quo ratings that place them within the margin of error of each other.

Various surveys conducted in the first weekend since the official campaign began last week showed that Park was leading Moon by around 2 to 3 percentage points.
Saenuri Party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye (left) holds a child as she meets with the residents during a visit to Injae, Gangwon Province, Sunday. (Yonhap News)
Saenuri Party presidential candidate Park Geun-hye (left) holds a child as she meets with the residents during a visit to Injae, Gangwon Province, Sunday. (Yonhap News)

With crucial television debates approaching and a little more than two weeks remaining until election day, the two candidates have turned to their old allies for help.

Rep. Lee Jae-oh, a veteran Saenuri Party member, broke his silence on Sunday, announcing his support for Park, whom he had fiercely butted heads with over the party’s primary rules. He had withdrawn his presidential bid in July as Park refused to consider his proposal for a fully-open primary.

“The national fate hinges on this presidential election that is being held amid the serious confrontation between the two Koreas, in order to maintain and develop a free democracy and market economy. We must sustain the development flow of the nation by seizing the administration again and further inherit and enhance the heightened status in the international society,” Lee said in a statement. The support from Lee, a key non-Park party member, was seen likely to help the conservative flag-bearer consilidate conservative support.
Democratic United Party presidential candidate Moon Jae-in (center) is surrounded by spectators during his rally at Incheon, Sunday. (Yonhap News)
Democratic United Party presidential candidate Moon Jae-in (center) is surrounded by spectators during his rally at Incheon, Sunday. (Yonhap News)

Moon, meanwhile, made a joint declaration with Sim Sang-jeung, currently the head of the minor Progressive Justice Party and formerly co-chairwoman of the Unified Progressive Party that had joined hands with the DUP as part of the opposition alliance in the April general election.

“We must build back the democracy and human rights that collapsed under the administration of Lee Myung-bak and the Saenuri Party. We must rise from the distorted economic structure where the fruits of growth are concentrated on chaebol and the privileged, and open the era of economic democratization,” they said in the joint statement.

According to Gallup Korea’s survey conducted between Nov. 26 and 30 on 1,549 respondents, Park received 45 percent compared to Moon’s 43 percent. The margin of error was ±2.5 percentage points with a 95 percent confidence level.

A similar pattern was seen in a survey conducted by Research View on Nov. 28-30 on 2,100 respondents.

Park received 47.9 percent compared to Moon’s 44.1 percent. Moon surpassed Park in the category of 40-something respondents, while Park came ahead of Moon in South Gyeongsang Province. The confidence level was 95 percent and margin of error ±2.1 percentage points.

As their ratings remained neck and neck, their offensives against each other also reached new heights over the weekend.

“This presidential election is an utterly important one that will define the fate of our country. You must make a decision whether to return to the failed past or step forward to the prepared future. If those who led the past government into failure once again take the helm, our country will not be able to take even a step toward the future,” Park said in a rally in Gangwon Province on Sunday.

Moon slammed Park by highlighting her link to the incumbent administration.

“Is it not true that Park is also responsible for the damage done by the Lee Myung-bak government this past 5 years. Is it not true that picking Park is the same as extending the Lee government.”

The two also began their campaigns via nationwide broadcasters by delivering pre-recorded 20-minute speeches in turn on Sunday evening.

By Lee Joo-hee (jhl@heraldcorp.com)
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