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Candidates sprint during the final stretch

Election outcome will likely be announced around midnight
May 09,2017
이미지뷰
Presidential candidates stump on the streets to woo voters’ support on Monday, the last campaign day for May 9 snap presidential election. From left, Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party, Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party, Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party, Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party and Sim Sang-jeung of the Justice Party. [YONHAP]
Major presidential candidates on Monday did their final leg of the campaign to conclude their 22-day journey. With voting booths to be opened from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, the five major candidates will wait for the judgement of the people with the election outcome expected to be announced around midnight.

Frontrunner Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party (DP) spent the last campaign day visiting Busan, Daegu, Cheongju and returning to Seoul in a 900 kilometer (559 miles) trip to galvanize his supporters amid growing expectation among his camp that he would handily clinch the victory today given his solid lead in all the polls.

Moon began his final campaign trail by holding a press conference at the DP headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul, saying his victory would enable his administration to achieve profound reform.

“One more vote will change the country by a hand-span. But with 10 votes, the country will move forward in the direction of reform in 10 giant steps,” said Moon before a throng of reporters.

At 7 p.m., the DP nominee held his final rally in Gwanghwamun Square, a strategic choice of venue given it was where people with candles in their hands came every weekend from October last year to demand the ouster of former President Park Geun-hye.

With his last rally in Seoul, Moon wrapped up his 22-day campaign trail that covered 16,000 kilometers on the road.

Negative campaigning continued on the last campaigning day. The DP on Monday focused on Liberty Korea Party (LKP) candidate Hong Joon-pyo, who criticized one of Moon’s aides for having described voters in Busan and South Gyeongsang as a “basket of deplorables” for their support of Hong. The controversy erupted when Moon’s aide, Mun Yong-sik, who led a counter-fake news team inside Moon’s camp, posted on his Facebook page on Saturday that the “basket of deplorables” in Busan and South Gyeongsang supporting Hong was “alarming” on Saturday. The LKP seized on the aide’s choice of words, saying the Moon camp wrongfully defamed the Busan people.

Sensing the trouble his remark could cause, especially in Gyeongsang region, Mun stepped down from his position on Sunday.

The DP defended him, saying he was referring to Hong as a depraved man, citing Hong’s remark made during his rally on Thursday that he did not let his father in law visit his house for 26 years because he had opposed Hong’s marriage to his daughter.

Hong announced a part of his shadow cabinet on Monday, tapping former Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo to become labor minister in the Hong administration should he win the election today. For defense minister, the conservative candidate picked former four-star general Park Jung-yi.

“If I win the presidency, I will let former general Park take charge of national security and let former Gyeonggi Governor Kim take the labor ministry, as he will be able to effectively crush hard labor unions,” said Hong at a press conference in Busan. He rallied in Busan, Daegu, Daejeon, Cheonan and made his last appearance in front of Seoul City Hall where supporters for former President Park Geun-hye held weekly rallies in protest of impeachment leading up to the Constitutional Court’s fateful decision to remove her from power on March 10.

People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, who trailed Moon within a margin of error in early April before seeing his support fall in part because of his poor performance in televised debates, campaigned in Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul early Monday and went down to Daejeon to campaign. For the last three campaign days, the centrist nominee, who boasts of himself as a self-made millionaire entrepreneur best suited to lead the nation into the forth industrial revolution, minimized the use of campaign trucks and instead walked in tennis shoes for direct encounters with voters.

“I will form a reform-minded coalition government to set the right path for the country toward the future. The Ahn Cheol-soo administration will be the future-oriented government formed by the people,” the nominee proclaimed during his Gwanghwamun rally.

Campaign teams for both Ahn and Hong claimed that approvals for their candidates crossed Moon’s on the last stump day.

Poll outcomes, if they were taken, have been barred from becoming public since Wednesday, in accordance with election law, which prohibits poll results to be made public starting from six days prior to Election Day.

Targeting young voters, Justice Party nominee Sim spent 12 hours campaigning in the Sinchon area in western Seoul from 12 p.m. Monday, where a cluster of universities make it a hub of young students. Sim’s choice of venue made sense given her high popularity among young voters for her progressive agenda. Sim’s open endorsement of gay rights during a presidential debate helped her approval rise to a point that her camp is expecting the only female candidate to receive more than 10 percent of the vote today.

Bareun Party nominee Yoo Seong-min campaigned in Daejeon and Seoul on his last day on the trail.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]