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(LEAD) Hong's belated resignation as governor sparks strong reactions

All News 15:22 April 10, 2017

(ATTN: CHANGES headline and lead paras; UPDATES with remarks from political opponents, more details and additional information throughout: REPLACES photos)

SEOUL, April 10 (Yonhap) -- Hong Joon-pyo, the presidential nominee of the conservative Liberty Korea Party, has resigned as governor of South Gyeongsang Province, but just in time to prevent a by-election in what his opponents and many angry residents called Monday a "cheat" to maintain his and his party's control over the province long after his departure.

Hong, who won the nomination of the former ruling party on March 31, put off his resignation until virtually the last minute despite criticism he was abusing a loophole in the law.

Hong Joon-pyo, presidential candidate of the conservative Liberty Korea Party, sheds tears while speaking at a ceremony held April 10, 2017, marking his resignation as governor of South Gyeongsang Province the previous day. (Yonhap)

The law requires a public servant running for president to resign at least 30 days before an election, making Sunday the deadline for his run in the May 9 election.

The law also requires the local election watchdog to be notified of a gubernatorial vacancy at least 30 days prior to that date, for a provincial by-election to be held on the same day as the presidential election.

Hong deliberately informed the provincial council of his resignation late Sunday, forcing officials to notify the election watchdog on Monday, 29 days before May 9.

The provincial office of the National Election Commission later confirmed there will be no provincial by-election held on the same day. It means a deputy governor, appointed by Hong himself, will likely serve out the remaining 14 months of Hong's four-year term.

In a pre-emptive defense to well-anticipated criticism, Hong argued his departure would trigger a series of resignations by provincial officials, while the by-election itself would cost the province tens of billions of won after he worked so hard to build its fiscal soundness.

Dozens of liberal civic activists throw salt in a traditional act of showing disgust at a protest rally held April 10, 2017, in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province over former governor Hong Joon-pyo's belated resignation that effectively prevented a by-election to pick his successor. (Yonhap)

Still, many accused Hong of bending, though not breaking, the law to achieve what they called his personal and selfish goals.

"It means Hong, who also majored in law, cheated the people," said Yoo Seong-min, the presidential candidate of the splinter conservative Bareun Party, pointing to Hong's career as a state prosecutor.

Nearly two dozen angry residents gathered Monday in front of the provincial government office where Hong's departure ceremony was held.

"Hong, who had given the residents nothing but misery through his tyranny and wickedness, again committed an act of brutality even at the very last moment he stepped down as governor," the protesters said, trying to throw salt at Hong and his car in an apparent show of disgust.

"He does not hesitate to commit crimes or misdeeds as long as they serve his interests of success and power," they said. "His very participation in politics means misfortune for us all."


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