By Takeo Miyazaki and Kentaro Nakajima / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondents SEOUL/DAEGU, South Korea — A three-week battle of words kicked off Monday as South Korea’s presidential campaign began. Originally scheduled for December, voting was moved forward to May 9 following the unprecedented ouster of former President Park Geun-hye in March, resulting in a notable lack of preparation among the nation’s political parties.
All the five major parties that have seats in the National Assembly fielded their candidates Monday. In addition to the top two candidates — Moon Jae In, former leader of the left-wing Democratic Party; and Ahn Cheol Soo, former leader of the center-left People’s Party, who enjoys support from conservatives — three others have registered their candidacy, including former Gyeongsangnam-do Gov. Hong Joon Pyo, a member of the conservative Liberty Korea Party.
Employment problems, including youth unemployment, have been an issue since Park’s administration and are the biggest point of contention in the ongoing campaign. However, the Constitutional Court decided Park’s dismissal on March 10, and the Constitution requires that a presidential election be held within 60 days from that date. This is the first such case in the country’s history.
The candidates are therefore far behind in announcing their campaign pledges.
Yonhap News has reported that the candidates have not even prepared documents to explain their specific plans to raise tens of trillions of won, or several trillion yen, in funding.
Whoever wins the May 9 election will immediately be sworn in as the new president. Ordinarily there are three months from December to February as a transitional period, but there is no such period this time.
With the increasingly unpredictable situation involving North Korea, a South Korean diplomatic source expressed concern, saying that an insufficient handover process “may cause a vaccum in security.”Speech