Hopefuls register, campaign kicks off

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Hopefuls register, campaign kicks off

With the 22-day campaign period set to kick off tomorrow, the presidential candidates for the ruling and main opposition party officially registered for the Dec. 19 election yesterday.

After independent candidate Ahn Cheol-soo dropped out of the race Friday, Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party will face off against ruling Saenuri Party front-runner Park Geun-hye in the country’s 18th presidential election.

Both Park and Moon put their names forward on the first day of a two-day registration period yesterday morning, formally submitting files to the National Election Commission.

Earlier, Park stated at a press conference at her party’s headquarters in Yeouido, western Seoul, that if she is not elected, she will step down from politics.

“Today, I will resign from my position as a representative in the National Assembly in which I have for the past 15 years shared the sorrows and joys of the people,” she said.

“If I am selected by the people as the 18th president, I will devote all of myself to the country and people,” she said.

“I believe this election is my last chance to show my great thanks to the people,” she added. “If I am not able to earn the trust of the people in this election, I will end my political voyage.”

Moon, a former human rights lawyer, held his first press conference yesterday after becoming the sole liberal candidate.

“The heavy responsibility of a historic transition of government is handed to me as the sole liberal candidate,” he said.

He paid respects to Ahn, who dropped out Friday after 10 days of frustrating negotiations between the two campaigns to find a process of determining who should run and who should drop out. Although Ahn formally endorsed Moon as his candidate of choice Friday, many of his followers believe Moon pushed him out of the race.

“There was great determination on the part of candidate Ahn for me to become registered as the single liberal candidate,” Moon said. “Even before being thankful, I am also very sorry. Ahn’s sincerity and tears will remind me of a heavy responsibility.”

He spoke directly to supporters. “For all those who supported Ahn and those who desired a unified candidacy, I will usher in an ‘era of the people’ that can change the future of this country.”

Lee Jung-hee, candidate of the minor opposition Unified Progressive Party, also registered yesterday, and several more minor candidates are expected to submit their names before registration closes today.

After registration closes, the presidential candidates will kick off their campaigns from tomorrow.

Their campaigns will be allowed to advertise in newspapers, on the Internet, radio and television and through phone calls and the mail. Advertising through sound trucks is not allowed. Campaigning must end Dec. 18, the day before the election.

The National Election Commission said three debates will be held on prime-time television during the campaign.

Meanwhile, Park will have an unusual solo TV debate with a group of panelists tonight. The 70 minutes of airtime were provided to her by three major broadcasters because she demanded equal time after Moon and Ahn held a TV debate last week as a part of the liberal camp’s runoff procedure.

During the session, she will also take questions from the audience.

By Sarah Kim [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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