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(News Focus) Rival party leaders pitch for support with a week to go before election

All News 18:40 April 06, 2016

SEOUL, April 6 (Yonhap) -- Rival party leaders stepped up their appeals for support in the upcoming parliamentary elections with just a week to go before people cast their ballots, as analysts and pundits say the races in some electorates are too close to call.

The ruling Saenuri Party leadership were out in force and at the forefront of many local campaign trails in a bid to woo as many voters as possible.

Meanwhile, many incumbent lawmakers and former leaders, as well as heavyweights from the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, were more focused on winning their own electorates and had less time to spare touring the country.

Won Yoo-Cheol, floor leader of the Saenuri Party, intensified his campaign in the capital and surrounding areas by taking part in street rallies and public gatherings to drum up support for the party's candidates.

Up for grabs are 122 constituencies in Seoul and the surrounding area, which have been cited as a crucial battleground in the April 13 polls.

In addition to these areas, Won led a special campaign team filled with the party's proportional candidates to visit Ulsan, some 400 kilometers southeast of Seoul.

Among the members of the team are Song Hee-kyung, who topped the party's proportional representation list, and renowned Go player Cho Hoon-hyun, who won the ticket by taking the 14th spot.

The higher candidates are ranked, the greater their election chances are, with political analysts forecasting 18 Saenuri candidates virtually guaranteed seats in the National Assembly.

It marks the first time for the members of the party leadership to visit Ulsan.

"I visited Ulsan as our party's candidates are facing an uphill climb," Won told Yonhap News Agency, rebutting some speculation that he has an alternate political agenda to take the role of chairman.

Incumbent Chairman Kim Moo-sung, who is seeking his sixth parliamentary term in the southern port city of Busan, earlier vowed to resign from the chief post after the polls wrap up.

Won said he is fully serving the role of co-chairman of the party's election preparatory committee.

Choi Kyung-hwan, a former top economic policy maker and also the chief the party's election committee, showed up at a street rally in the southern port city of Busan to show support for Son Soo-jo.

Oh Se-hoon of the Saenuri Party, a former Seoul mayor and a frontrunner in the Jongno Ward in central Seoul, also showed up at other districts in the capital city.

Oh is set to face off against Chung Sye-kyun of the Minjoo Party, who currently represents Jongno Ward in the National Assembly.

A poll released on Monday put Oh's approval rating at 15.4 percent in the potential presidential race, up 1.6 percentage points from a week earlier, beating Kim Moo-sung for the first time.

Experts say that Saenuri victories in Seoul districts would be boons for Oh's presidential chances.

Leaders of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, on the other hand, have generally not shown up on nationwide campaign trails, due in part to the recent factional feud.

Scores of constituencies in Honam, the southwestern region that is the political turf of the opposition party, have been filled with multiple candidates from the opposition bloc.

Rep. Park Young-sun, a former floor leader of the Minjoo Party, has not yet visited the Honam region despite several candidates' request for her support.

Chung Sye-kyun, the party's former chairman, also mostly stayed put in the Jongro area.

"The race is too close," said Chung's close aide, adding that the lawmaker did not have the time or resources to help other candidates.

Lee Jong-kul, the party's floor leader, is also expected to face an uphill battle in his electorate in Anyang, Gyeonggi Province, making it virtually impossible for him to support other candidates.

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