Moon and Ahn will face off at TV debate tonight

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Moon and Ahn will face off at TV debate tonight

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Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo


The two liberal presidential candidates are talking again over how to merge their candidacies, and disagreeing again over the method of selecting who should bow out.

But they agreed to hold a televised debate at 10 p.m. tonight that will be aired by the state-run Korean Broadcasting System.

With less than a week ahead of candidacy registration between Sunday and Monday, the two candidates see the debate as an important variable and are practicing for it. Independent Ahn Cheol-soo leased a TV studio for practice, a move that was spotted by reporters recently.

But their campaigns also continue to spar over the method to be used to decide which of the men runs as the united liberal candidate and which stands down. They held a meeting Monday to discuss the issue, and the discussion in the meeting was reported exclusively in the Hankyoreh newspaper yesterday.

The campaign of Democratic United Party candidate Moon Jae-in accused Ahn of leaking information about Monday’s closed-door meeting to the Hankyoreh. “We want Ahn to make a public apology for releasing the manipulated report,” said Woo Sang-ho, spokesman of Moon.

But Woo confirmed that the Hankyoreh report was accurate and that Ahn’s camp had proposed that the final candidate be decided by the results of a general public opinion poll and a more restrictive survey of supporters of the two candidates.

Ahn’s proposal was that 14,000 DUP members and an equal number of people who have made campaign contributions to Ahn be selected from data banks and asked to watch tonight’s debate. Afterward, a randomly chosen 3,000 from each side would be surveyed as to who should be the liberal candidate. Equal weight would be given to the general opinion poll and the special survey.

Moon’s campaign wants nothing to do with the more restrictive survey.

“They proposed an idea that we could never accept,” Woo told reporters at a briefing yesterday.

On Sunday, Moon said Ahn could choose whatever method he wanted to decide the candidacy issue, although the two sides then agreed to continue negotiations.

The problem with the special survey for Moon is that he doesn’t enjoy universal support within his own party. During the DUP’s presidential primary in September, Moon received fewer votes than other candidates from party delegates in some regions. But he won the primary because of mobile voting by citizens at large, not necessarily DUP members.

“When it comes to DUP delegates, they belong to various factions in the party,” Woo said. “Not all of them support Moon. However, people who contribute to Ahn’s campaign are apparently passionate supporters.

“Ahn’s side agreed to present a revised plan by today,” he said.

Ahn’s camp had some grumbles about that reaction.

“They asked us for a proposal and they didn’t accept it,” Yoo Min-young, Ahn’s spokesman, told reporters at another briefing. “So the talks drag on.”

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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