Rival parties appeal for voter support on first day of official campaigning

SEOUL, The ruling and opposition parties appealed for voter support Thursday on the first day of official campaigning for next month's local elections that are also seen as a referendum on the performance of the administration of President Moon Jae-in.

The ruling Democratic Party sought to take advantage of Moon's high approval ratings by highlighting the importance of the June 13 mayoral and gubernatorial elections in helping move his drive to make peace with North Korea going forward.

"The (main opposition) Liberty Korea Party ... is trying to break the ankle of the Moon Jae-in government," Rep. Choo Mi-ae, leader of the ruling party, said in a stump speech in support of the party's candidate in Seoul's Jungnang district chief. "Overwhelmingly winning the local elections is the way to help the Moon Jae-in government do a better job."

The LKP, on the other hand, called for voters to empower the opposition so as to help keep the Moon administration in check. It also blamed the Moon government for worsening economic conditions for ordinary people.

"The Moon Jae-in government is running uncontrollably. The end of this is the collapse of the Republic of Korea," Hong Joon-pyo, leader of the LKP, said during a news conference at the party's headquarters. "The LKP should be given power to keep the government in check so as to stop this uncontrollable run."

Hong also raised questions about qualifications of some ruling party candidates, including Gyeonggi Province Gov. candidate Lee Jae-myung, accused of cursing his sister in law, and South Gyeongsang Province Gov. candidate Kim Kyoung-soo, accused of involvement in an online opinion rigging scandal.

The minor opposition parties Bareunmirae Party, the Party for Peace and Democracy, and the Justice Party, criticized both the DP and the LKP, and called for support for them as an alternative.

Up for grabs in the quadrennial local elections are 17 chiefs of provinces and metropolises, 226 heads of smaller administrative units, 824 seats in provincial and metropolitan assemblies, 2,927 lower-level local councilors and 17 superintendents of education.

In the latest poll by Gallup Korea released on May 18, the DP's approval rating stood at 51 percent, far ahead of the LKP's 11 percent.

The biggest battleground of the local elections is the country's capital, where current Mayor Park Won-soon is seeking a third term, running against Kim Moon-soo of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor Bareunmirae Party.

Park is clearly ahead with 46.9 percent support, compared with Ahn's 20.6 percent and Kim's 12.9 percent, according to a survey commissioned by Leader, an affiliate of online news outlet MoneyToday.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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