By Yi Whan-woo
Hong Joon-pyo, the presidential candidate of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), faces criticism for abusing a loophole in the election law to prevent a by-election to choose his successor as governor of South Gyeongsang Province.
Hong announced his resignation from the governor’s post just three minutes before the deadline, and notified the National Election Commission (NEC) of the decision just before midnight, late Sunday.
His move was aimed at preventing a by-election that would have taken place jointly with the presidential election on May 9 if he had notified the NEC earlier.
Hong has been against the by-election, citing that the quadrennial local elections will take place in June 2018 and using provincial funds to elect a short-term governor was a waste of money.
But several residents were infuriated by his decision, accusing him of “exploiting loopholes” of the election regulations against voters’ wishes.
On Monday morning, they lodged a protest in front of the provincial government building where a retirement ceremony for Hong was underway.
He announced his resignation at 11:57 p.m. Sunday, three minutes before the 30-day deadline set by the commission for candidates to run in the presidential election.
He then delivered a letter notifying the NEC of his resignation in person to the commission’s regional offices at 11:58 p.m. The notification was to be received by the commission by Sunday midnight to allow it time to take registration from potential candidates and to run a by-election accordingly. But it was not received in time.
Although there is no relevant regulation, presidential contenders, if they are bureaucrats, usually quit their post with sufficient time before the deadline for officials to prepare for a snap election.
But Hong delayed his resignation until the last minute to exploit the
Election Law, according to the protesters.
“The election does not stipulate how a letter of resignation should be submitted to the relevant officials. And Hong apparently took advantage of the law by delivering the letter in person and missing the deadline,” a protester said.
Others accused him of “committing political atrocities” and said he should be declared ineligible for the election.
They also said Hong was wrong in his complaint that it takes over 30 billion won ($26.2 million) to run a by-election.
They claimed it would only cost around 13 billion won.
It is also speculated that Hong, a conservative, did not want his successor to scrap policies that are opposed by liberal-minded voters.
“He could have stayed governor if he was so concerned about the provincial budget being wasted,” said members of the Justice Party, a minor liberal party.