|Main opposition Liberty Korea Party leader Hwang Kyo-ahn speaks to reporters in front of a vacant store in a shopping district in Seoul's Jongno District officially kicking off his election campaign, Sunday, two days after he declared his bid to run in the district in the April 15 general election. Yonhap|
By Jung Da-min
Former Prime Ministers Lee Nak-yon and Hwang Kyo-ahn, rival candidates from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), respectively, are gearing up for their "big match" in Seoul's Jongno District, a key constituency in the April 15 general election.
LKP leader Hwang kicked off his election campaign with a visit to the district, Sunday, two days after he declared his bid to run in Jongno to compete against Lee, the first prime minister of the Moon Jae-in government.
He visited a shopping district where many buildings remain vacant due to high rents and a decreasing number of customers, as well as other places including his alma mater Sungkyunkwan University.
"The Jongno I used to know was the center of the economy and politics, a vibrant and crowded district. But now all the old vitality has gone and stores are shut," Hwang said, blaming the Moon government's "poor" economic policies.
Hwang, a former prosecutor and prime minister under the Park Geun-hye administration, also said the previous day on Facebook that his bid in Jongno was not to compete with other candidates but to fight against Moon, accusing the President of "destroying the country's economy and the people's livelihood."
"I promised all of you that I would run in the most competitive constituency. It had to be where I could fight against the Moon government at the nearest distance at the fiercest level," Hwang wrote.
During his campaign stops, Hwang welcomed the minor New Conservative Party's key member Yoo Seong-min's decision not to run in the upcoming election and for his party to join the LKP to form a conservative "big tent."
"Conservative parties should unite to judge the Moon Jae-in government," Hwang told reporters in front of a vacant shop.
The DPK's Lee also continued his election campaign stumping with a visit to the Sajik-dong Community Center and nearby areas.
|Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea holds a meeting with members of a community center in Seouls' Jongno District, Seoul, Saturday, to discuss regional issues of the constituency he is running for in the April 15 general election, in this photo provided by Lee's office. Yonhap|
Lee, a journalist-turned-politician who served four terms as a lawmaker, said he will learn more about the people's livelihoods by continuously visiting "every alley" in the constituency.
The DPK said Hwang should first complete basic procedures for the election before starting campaigning as he has not officially registered with the National Election Commission as a candidate in the Jongno constituency.
"Hwang was yet to sign up with the National Election Commission as a candidate. If Hwang has been visiting Jongno and calling for support for himself as an individual candidate running in the constituency, not as a party leader, it is highly likely that such a campaign was in breach of the Election Act," DPK spokesman Lee Hae-sik said in a statement.
Lee registered with the election commission as a candidate for Jongno, Feb. 3, moving into a rented apartment in the district a day earlier. Lee's former house in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, was sold for around 1.95 billion won ($1.64 million), Feb. 5, according to the DPK.