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Moon, Ahn vie to court centrist, conservative voters

All Headlines 14:39 April 07, 2017

SEOUL, April 7 (Yonhap) -- Two leading presidential contenders on Friday intensified efforts to court centrist and conservative voters with their security-heavy schedules, as a poll showed them in an increasingly tight race in the upcoming election.

Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential nominees of the liberal Democratic Party and the center-left People's Party, respectively, for the May 9 election, visited security-related sites, including military units, amid growing nuclear and missile threats from North Korea.

As his first security-related trip since his victory in the largest party's primaries Monday, Moon traveled to a memorial park for the fallen troops and national patriots in Hongseong, 157 kilometers south of Seoul.

In a visitors' book, Moon wrote, "(I) will build a Republic of Korea that is fair and righteous by upholding your noble spirits and sacrifices for our country."

Moon Jae-in (R) visits a memorial park for fallen troops and national patriots in Hongseong, 157 kilometers south of Seoul, on April 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

Later in the day, Moon was set to visit an Air Force operations control center near Seoul.

Security has been cited as one of Moon's weaknesses as conservatives criticized his negative stance on the ongoing installation of a U.S. missile defense system and penchant for dialogue with an increasingly belligerent Pyongyang.

His visit to the security sites came just two days after the communist state fired a ballistic missile into the East Sea. The launch was the latest in a recent series of the North's provocative acts, including its high-thrust missile engine test last month.

Ahn also began his Friday schedule by visiting a unit of the Army's 17th Division in the western port city of Incheon.

Ahn Cheol-soo, the presidential candidate of the center-left People's Party, speaks during his visit to an education unit of the Army's 17th Division in the western port city of Incheon on April 7, 2017. (Yonhap)

Compared with Moon, Ahn is seen as more security-oriented as he has recently made remarks to respect the Seoul-Washington agreement to station the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system on the Korean Peninsula.

During a forum a day earlier, Ahn said that security is the "basic foundation" for the country, as he was trying to highlight his priority on the security agenda.

With the popularity gap between Moon and Ahn quickly shrinking, the pair have been caught in an intense competition for centrist and right-wing votes, while their conservative rivals have been languishing in opinion polls with less than 10 percent support.

In the weekly survey, conducted between Tuesday and Thursday by local pollster Gallup Korea, Ahn garnered a support rating of 35 percent, up 16 percentage points from a week earlier. Moon posted 38 percent, a gain of 7 percentage points.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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