Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party holds up a fist during a campaign event in front of Gwangju’s Songjeong Station Market on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
The idea of building a large shopping mall in the liberal stronghold of Gwangju has become a political hot potato, after presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party made it his election pledge this week.
Yoon revealed the idea of building Gwangju’s first mega shopping mall on Wednesday, emphasizing how Gwangju is the “only” city without such a facility and blamed the ruling Democratic Party of Korea for standing in the way of the plan.
“Gwangju residents are longing to have a large shopping mall, that all other big cities have. How is it that only Gwangju does not have such a shopping mall here?” Yoon said. “It is because the ruling Democratic Party has opposed the plan.”
Yoon also denounced the ruling party for failing to pursue the region’s development, when it has been dominating support in the area for decades.
The ruling Democratic Party fired back in response to Yoon’s proposal, saying Yoon’s promise lacks understanding of the regional economy in Gwangju.
“The ruling Democratic Party did not oppose launching a shopping mall complex in the region. ... But it is important to consider the effects such a mall will have on the local commercial areas,” the ruling party’s Gwangju headquarters said in a statement.
Rep. Song Gab-seok of the ruling Democratic Party representing Gwangju released a statement, calling Yoon’s pledge “ignorant.”
“Of the 1.44 million residents in Gwangju, the lives of some 600,000 are depending on sole proprietors and small-business operators. A big shopping mall can threaten their livelihoods,” Rep. Song said.
Against the opposition, People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok insisted that the candidate’s election pledge reflects the desires of the Gwangju residents.
In a press release, the People Power Party’s Gwangju headquarters cited its survey result that shows over 70 percent of the city’s residents in their 20s and 30s were in support of launching a shopping mall there, and 59.6 percent of sole proprietors in the city also expressed “strong support” to the plan.
Gwangju, located in the southwestern part of the Korean Peninsula, stands as the sixth-largest city by population.
In 2015, retail giant Shinsegae Group had sought to build a shopping complex in Hwajeong-dong in Gwangju, but backed off after facing strong opposition from a regional merchant association and civic groups.
In the latest Gallup Korea survey on Friday, Yoon witnessed his support rating in Gwangju and the north and south Jeolla provinces -- the home turf of the liberal Democratic Party -- jump by 12 percentage points, to 18 percent, compared to the week before.
The support rating of presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung of the ruling party in the region edged down from 69 percent to 68 percent, in the same survey conducted on 1,007 adults from Tuesday to Thursday.
Overall, Yoon led the polls, garnering 41 percent in public support against Lee’s 34 percent. Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition People’s Party secured 11 percent support, and Sim Sang-jung of the minor progressive Justice Party gained 1 percentage point to post 4 percent.For more information regarding the survey results go to the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission homepage.
By Jo He-rim (email@example.com