Election campaigns raise concerns for COVID-19

The election campaigns of presidential candidates are raising concerns for further fanning the pandemic, as large crowds flock to candidates’ public appearances.

On Wednesday, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea’s presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung tested negative for COVID-19, after having come into contact with an infected person over the weekend. Lee had called off scheduled activities on the previous day. He visited Boramae Medical Center, where COVID-19 patients are treated, Wednesday.

As political parties from across the aisle are criticizing the incumbent government’s handling of the virus spread, concerns are being raised over the door-to-door electioneering of the candidates themselves.

As for the ruling party candidate, he had come into contact with a regional party official who tested positive Saturday when he visited North Gyeongsang Province in a four-day regional canvassing trip. Lee took the COVID-19 test Tuesday, after the official had been tested positive. 

On Dec. 8, a crowd of supporters, bystanders and reporters jammed the street of Daehakro in Seoul as Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, went to greet residents and students in the region.

That was the same day the number of daily patients recorded over 7,000 for the first time.

While party officials at the site held signs such as “social distancing in place,” “COVID-19 warning, no handshakes,” it could not stop people from crowding around the candidate.

It reportedly took about 20 minutes to walk through some 400 meters, and supporters were seen chanting Yoon’s name.

In front of a Christmas tree installed in a park, he held a selfie event to take pictures with supporters, with a long line forming of people waiting.

Similar sights of the candidates leading large crowds of people are being re-created repeatedly, as they go around to greet people outside, without any prior processes to check whether those there are vaccinated.

When Lee visited traditional markets on several occasions in the provinces of Jeolla and Gyeongsang as part of his regional canvassing, onlookers, supporters and party officials also crowded around the candidate.

On Wednesday, the ruling party’s election committee said it will be transforming its COVID-19 situation room into an emergency headquarters, appointing Floor Leader Rep. Yun Ho-jung as the chief director and Lee Hak-young and Kim Min-seok as deputy directors.

“We will hold a meeting with the government. Lee and the Democratic Party will act immediately to maintain the liberal government’s enduring spirit against crisis,” he said.

The floor leader reiterated the party’s pledge to establish a COVID-19 emergency reserve fund to support small-business owners, and also lead discussion on compensation measures for those who suffer from vaccine side effects.

As a way to approach voters without coming into direct contact with them, candidates are actively utilizing livestreaming social media platforms.

Lee on Wednesday was to appear on his YouTube channel to answer questions posted to his campaign website, dubbed “Jae-myung’s Village.”

Yoon also kicked off the second season of his YouTube livestreaming show, “Suk-yeol TV,” on Wednesday, as a way to approach and communicate with the public more directly, the party said.

The candidate will appear on the show every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. to discuss his election pledges and various other issues, the party added.

By Jo He-rim (

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