(2nd LD) Official campaigning kicks off for April 10 elections

Official campaigning kicked off Thursday for the April 10 general elections, with the ruling People Power Party (PPP) and the main opposition Democratic Party (DP) vying fiercely for control of the National Assembly. The quadrennial race holds significant importance for the ruling party as failure to regain a majority could potentially render President Yoon Suk Yeol a lame duck for the remaining three years of his single five-year term. Meanwhile, the DP aims to retain its parliamentary majority. Recent predictions have suggested that the DP could win more than 200 seats in the 300-member Assembly, a two-thirds threshold that gives the party enough power to override presidential veto and even impeach the president. The PPP has pleaded for voter support, imploring that the Yoon administration has been unable to push its reform agenda forward for the past two years in the face of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The DP has urged voters to pass stern judgment on what it calls the "incompetent" Y oon administration, accusing it of causing the economy and the livelihoods of the people to worsen seriously and mishandling a series of controversial issues for the past two years. PPP leader Han Dong-hoon kicked off the campaign at a agro-fisheries market in Seoul's eastern area, emphasizing his party's efforts to address people's livelihood issues. "The fate of this nation will be determined by this crucial election campaign period," Han said, adding that the PPP will advocate for hardworking people. Citing a recent hike in fruit prices, Han asked merchants for an opportunity for his party to work and solve such issues. Han has since toured other highly contested constituencies in Seoul, as well as the surrounding Gyeonggi Province, showing support for his party candidates. "We entered this election with the determination to reform politics and the people's livelihoods, as well as bring criminals to justice," Han said while showing support for the party's candidate, Ham Un-kyung, running for Seoul's M apo-B district. DP Chairman Lee Jae-myung, meanwhile, visited the Gyeyang-B district in Incheon, located west of Seoul, where he is competing against his PPP rival Won Hee-ryong, who previously served as the country's land minister. Lee again emphasized the party's critique of Yoon and controversies surrounding his family. "We cannot continue to entrust our country to a corrupt organization that ... is trying to gain personal profits by changing a highway route, and to an anti-democratic organization that belittles the people," Lee said, referring to allegations surrounding the family of the first lady. The DP also held an official campaign event at Yongsan Station in central Seoul, near where the presidential office is located. "It is time for the sovereign and the owner of the democratic republic to judge the Yoon Seok Yeol regime, which ruined the country and betrayed the people," Lee said during the event. Lee is scheduled to visit other districts of Seoul before returning to his constituency in the afternoon. Lee Hae-chan, who led the DP's election committee, cautiously forecast victory, citing voters' confidence in the party's main motto of stern judgment on the Yoon administration. "It takes about a week to understand the overall situation, but I feel like we have a chance to win," Lee Hae-chan said during a radio interview. Newly formed minor parties also kicked off their campaigns in different parts of Seoul amid persistently low approval ratings. Members of the New Reform Party visited a fire station in Seoul, vowing to look after those who take care of the public. Members of the New Future Party (Saemirae), created by former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, also visited the agro-fisheries market in eastern Seoul and met with merchants. The Korea Innovation Party, a new party launched by Cho Kuk, the scandal-tainted former justice minister, meanwhile, announced its official campaign as well. Cho will begin his day in the southern city of Busan before arriving in Seoul. Observers say the 48 consti tuencies in the capital city are the primary battlegrounds that will ultimately determine the election outcome. Data suggests that results in Seoul often mirror the overall election results. In the previous election in 2020, the then ruling DP won 41 out of 49 seats, while the United Future Party, the PPP's former name, secured only eight seats. The DP eventually secured a landslide victory by taking 180 out of the 300 seats. In 2016, the DP won 35 seats, while the Saenuri Party, the PPP's former name, secured 12 seats, resulting in a closely contested yet victorious outcome for the DP. Overseas voting began Wednesday and will run until Monday, and early voting is set for two days, starting April 5. Source: Yonhap News Agency