Official Presidential Campaign Period Kicks Off for May 9th Election
SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- The official electioneering period for the country's upcoming presidential election began Monday with 15 hopefuls vying for the top elected office.
The 22-day campaign period will end one day before the May 9 election, according to the National Election Commission.
A total of 15 candidates registered to run for the election over the weekend, matching the record number of presidential candidates in an election set in 2007.
They include front-runner Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party, also the single largest party in the country's unicameral parliament.
Others include Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party, Hong Joon-pyo of the former ruling Liberty Korea Party and Rep. Yoo Seong-min of the conservative Bareun Party.
The election, however, is increasingly seen as a two-way race between two front-runners -- Moon and Ahn -- who together have garnered more than 80 percent of all votes in most recent polls.
With the start of the official electioneering period, each candidate may place up to 3,400 street banners and 93,000 posters throughout the nation, promoting their run for presidency, and mail up to 23 million copies of handouts to households, the election watchdog said.
They may also purchase up to 30 one-minute TV commercial times, along with up to 70 newspaper advertisement sections each.
All such activities may cost up to tens of billions of won and must be paid for by the candidates or their political parties, if there are any.
The NEC has said each candidate may spend up to 50.9 billion won (US$44.57 million) during their official campaigning.
The election watchdog will fully refund the money, as long as they are proven legitimate and if the candidate wins more than 15 percent of all eligible votes cast in the upcoming election.
Candidates with less than 15 percent but more than 10 percent of all votes will be reimbursed 50 percent of their costs, while those with less than 10 percent will be reimbursed none.