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Court grants injunction to call off one-on-one debate between Lee, Yoon

Presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People's Party attends a party event on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People's Party attends a party event on Wednesday. (Yonhap)

The planned televised debate between the two leading presidential candidates has been called off, with a Seoul court granting the injunction filed by Ahn Cheol-soo, a minor opposition candidate who had been excluded from the event.

Seoul Western District Court on Wednesday ordered the three local broadcasters not to hold or broadcast a debate for the two presidential candidates leading the race -- Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea and Yoon Suk-yeol of the People Power Party -- while excluding Ahn Cheol-soo, the flagbearer for the minor opposition People’s Party.

“The obligor in the case should not hold and broadcast televised debates of candidates excluding the obligee, Ahn Cheol-soo,” the court said.

“Debates by the local broadcasters are broadcasted through TV, a medium that can have very strong influence to the people.

Considering the importance of the TV debates, there should be certain boundaries that limit the broadcasters in choosing the participants of the debates, the court said.

“Ahn’s support rating is well over the average of the 5 percent mark that is required to take part in the mandatory debates stipulated by the election law. This clearly shows that Ahn is a candidate of nationwide interest,” the court added.

In South Korea, at least three televised debates are mandated by law for eligible candidates to participate in during the “election period,” which the law stipulates as from the candidates’ registration day to the day before the election.

Aside from the mandatory TV debates, the presidential candidates can hold debates before the legal election period, if they agree on it.

As Lee Jae-myung and Yoon Suk-yeol had agreed to hold their first one-on-one debate, excluding Ahn, on either Sunday or Monday, Ahn’s party sought an injunction in the candidate’s name to suspend three terrestrial TV stations, KBS, MBC and SBS, from airing their debates, citing unfairness.

In a similar case, a local court in 2007 had granted an injunction filed by then presidential nominee Moon Kuk-hyun of Creative Korea Party against KBS and MBC. The injunction banned airing the debates planned for three other candidates who had garnered support ratings of over 10 percent -- Chung Dong-young of United New Democratic Party, Lee Myung-bak of Hannara Party and Lee Hoi-chang, who had no party affiliation.

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