Rival parties visit key battlegrounds two days before elections

April 8, 2024

With the parliamentary elections two days away, rival parties headed to key battleground areas in Seoul and the nearby metropolitan regions Monday as they made their final pitch to voters after a record high turnout in the early voting.

Ruling People Power Party (PPP) leader Han Dong-hoon visited the southeastern parts of Gyeonggi Province that surrounds Seoul, and districts in Incheon, about 30 kilometers west of the capital, later in the day to seek voter support.

The Gyeonggi and Incheon regions, which together have some 74 seats at stake, are considered a stronghold for the main opposition Democratic Party (DP).

This composite file photo shows ruling People Power Party leader Han Dong-hoon (L) and main opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung. (Yonhap)
This composite file photo shows ruling People Power Party leader Han Dong-hoon (L) and main opposition Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung. (Yonhap)

But the southeastern districts of Gyeonggi, consisting of industrial towns with relatively younger demographics, have been seen as one of the closely contested regions in this year’s general elections, set for Wednesday.

Han appealed to voters to prevent the opposition bloc, including the DP’s satellite party, from securing more than 200 seats in the 300-strong National Assembly, a two-thirds threshold that gives the party enough power to override presidential vetoes and even impeach the president.

“The 12 hours of April 10th will decide whether the Republic of Korea will advance or fall into ruin,” Han said during the campaigning. “We have 12 hours to block them from destroying the Republic of Korea with 200 seats.”

“As far as I understand, many of you are saving your energy for Election Day. Please go to the polls that day. Let’s unite our hearts so that we won’t regret it in history,” he said.

Han plans to also canvass in Goyang in northern Gyeonggi, and Gimpo, just west of Seoul. The PPP has made an election pledge to merge Gimpo and its adjacent cities with Seoul as part of a city reorganization plan.

DP leader Lee Jae-myung focused his campaigning in Seoul, reemphasizing the need to call for punishing what he called “the incompetent Yoon government” and hold the government responsible for mismanaging the country.

“If they continue to foul even when they’re given a yellow card, you might have to give them a red card someday,” Lee said during campaigning in Dongdaemun.

Starting off in a district in Dongjak to the south of the Han River, Lee visited several key battleground districts in the central and western parts of Seoul before heading to Incheon to show support for a DP candidate. Lee is also running for a seat in a different constituency in Incheon.

It was the sixth time for Lee to show up at the DP’s campaign in the Dongjak-B district, where its candidate, Ryu Sam-young, is competing against former four-term lawmaker Na Kyung-won of the PPP.

Dongjak is considered a key battlefield in Seoul, along with a handful of districts along the northern side of the Han River, in what has been dubbed the “Han River Belt.”

“Dongjak-B is the barometer for all of Seoul,” said Han Byung-do, the strategy chief of the DP’s election campaign committee. “If we win here, we expect to be able to clinch a victory in Seoul.”

On Sunday, Lee went to Seoul’s southern districts of Gangnam, Seocho and Songpa, traditionally a PPP stronghold, to appeal to voters to “make a different choice” this time to “punish the Yoon government.”

The DP sees that a few constituencies in Gangnam and Seocho are worth betting on as its election forecasts showed the areas were too close to call.

Fledgling parties also stepped up their last-ditch canvassing.

Lee Jun-seok, a former PPP leader who formed the New Reform Party, said he will campaign for 48 hours straight without sleep.

Lee’s Hwaseong-B constituency, in Gyeonggi Province, is among the closely contested districts, with a former Samsung Electronics researcher and former Hyundai Motor executive vying for the parliamentary seat against Lee as respective PPP and DP candidates.

Lee’s party spent much of the day focusing on its campaigning in the Han River Belt districts.

The Rebuilding Korea Party, led by disgraced former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, visited the Gimpo and Seongnam cities in Gyeonggi Province, before moving to Dongjak.

The New Future Party (Saemirae), formed by former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, campaigned in Mapo in Seoul’s west and Seongdong on the northern bank of the Han River, to pander to the younger generations.

The minor Justice Party also canvassed the Mapo district as part of efforts to woo younger voters in the capital and metropolitan areas.

On Tuesday, the eve of Election Day, DP leader Lee and his party members will gather in Seoul’s central district of Yongsan, another key Han River Belt battleground, in their last-minute efforts to boost voter support.

Han of the PPP will appear at the Cheonggye Stream in downtown Seoul for his final campaign stop.