February 04, 2022 12:51
The four major presidential candidates faced off in the first round of live TV debates on Thursday. Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Minjoo Party, Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party, Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor opposition conservative People's Party, and Sim Sang-jung of the minor progressive Justice Party exchanged barbs on key policy issues.
Each worked to their own strengths in a bid to win over the millions of voters who have so far been unimpressed by any of them.
Lee focused on his preparedness to be an "able business-savvy president." Yoon stressed the need to "normalize investigation agencies." Ahn reiterated the "future" of the country and the "unity of the people" and Sim emphasized "eco-friendly and welfare" policies.
There will be at least three more such debates until the election on March 9 -- on Feb. 21, Feb. 25, and March 2. They will be broadcast live on KBS and MBC.
Only candidates from political parties with more than five seats in the National Assembly, candidates whose parties won more than three percent of votes in the previous presidential election, and candidates who won an average approval rating of five percent or more in polls conducted between Jan. 16 and Feb. 14 qualify for the debates.
Under this rule, all the four major candidates qualify. A TV debate for minor candidates who do not fall under the rule will be held separately on Feb. 22.
But additional debates could take place if candidates agree. Lee and Yoon had already agreed to a one-on-one early this week, but that was canceled at the last minute due to disputes over debating rules.
Polling expert Bae Jong-chan said, "There's a high chance that female voters in their 30s through 50s, who take up about 10 percent of all voters, will be influenced by TV debates."
In a poll of 1,000 voters on Jan. 27-29 by Hankook Research, 31.6 percent of respondents said they could change their minds depending on results of TV debates. But experts speculated that the four-way debates could end up dull and insubstantial.
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