[From the Scene] Yoon hops on the ‘Passion Train’ to woo voters in rival stronghold

Presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party delivers his election pledge for Jeonju in front of Jeonju Railway Station on Saturday. (Yonhap)

YEOSU, South Jeolla Province – It’s Saturday and Yoon Suk-yeol, the People’s Power Party presidential candidate, makes a grand entrance outside Jeonju Station in North Jeolla Province.

To cheers from supporters – some chanting “President Yoon Suk-yeol” to the beat of a drum – Yoon is greeted by party chairman Lee Jun-seok who arrived at the station on the “Passion Train”, a high-speed train four chartered cars that the group hired for a tour of Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces.

It was the scene on Saturday, the second day of Passion Train’s three-day tour which focused mainly on the Honam area – the liberal stronghold of Jeolla’s northern and southern provinces.

The passion train set off Friday for a 13-city tour of Chungcheong and Jeolla provinces. Jumping aboard the Passion Train on the second day of the train’s operation on Saturday, Yoon traveled to Jeonju, Namwon, and Sunchang in North Jeolla Province and Suncheon and Yeosu in South Jeolla Province. .

“The Honam area has been dominated by a certain political party for about 30 years, and they made so many mouth-watering promises, but I don’t know if any of them came to fruition,” yelled Yoon. to the crowd, while the election the law prohibited him from using loudspeakers. In Korea, certain acts of canvassing are prohibited before the official period, which begins on Tuesday.

Small campaign events followed Yoon’s speech, with Yoon punching train tickets given to young supporters in their twenties.

Supporters of Yoon Suk-yeol and reporters crowd the entrance of the Passion Train as the presidential candidate of the main opposition People's Power party boards the train at Jeonju Station on Saturday.  (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

Supporters of Yoon Suk-yeol and reporters crowd the entrance of the Passion Train as the presidential candidate of the main opposition People’s Power party boards the train at Jeonju Station on Saturday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

Yoon speaks during a talk show program on Saturday, inside the second carriage of the passion train, where a makeshift stage has been set up. (Yonhap)

On the station platform, Yoon put on the blue wristband pass given to passengers and jumped on the train. A large crowd continued to follow Yoon along the platform, pushing and shoving as they tried to get a better view of the contestant. Others, who had not obtained prior permission, raised their voices as they tried to board the train.

Inside the train, Yoon participated in talk shows designed to deliver on his campaign pledges and talk about the cities he visited. The programs invited guests from each city and were broadcast live on Youtube from a makeshift studio in the second car of the train.

While stopping at Namwon, Yoon was once again surrounded by a similar crowd. Outside the station, Yoon again denounced the ruling liberal bloc for its failure to promote the region’s development.

In the city, Yoon also strolled through a traditional market to greet locals and shopkeepers – a routine activity for politicians running for office here.

Yoon points to a bag of dried seafood at the Namwon Traditional Market in Namwon, North Jeolla Province, on Saturday.  (Yonhap)

Yoon points to a bag of dried seafood at the Namwon Traditional Market in Namwon, North Jeolla Province, on Saturday. (Yonhap)

A large crowd of Yoon Suk-yeol supporters, spectators, YouTubers and journalists fills the narrow road of Namwon Traditional Market in Namwon, North Jeolla Province, on Saturday.  (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

A large crowd of Yoon Suk-yeol supporters, spectators, YouTubers and journalists fills the narrow road of Namwon Traditional Market in Namwon, North Jeolla Province, on Saturday. (Jo He-rim/The Korea Herald)

The narrow street of the old market was completely filled with a crowd of supporters, opponents and spectators, pushing and shoving each other for a better view.

Not only journalists, but YouTubers also raised their cameras as they broadcast the scene live on location.

From Namwon, the train headed to Yeosu Expo Station, the last destination of the day’s Passion Train. In the port city, Yoon is committed to attracting foreign investment and reinvigorating Yeosu as a tourist city. Yeosu was the host city of Expo 2012.

In all the scenes of the trip, not everyone was in favor of Yoon. Opponents of Yoon and the Conservative Party were spotted where Yoon went, holding signs criticizing Yoon.

Members of the Korean Railway Workers’ Union also came out to protest the departure of the Passion train from Cheonan, South Chungcheong province, on Friday, calling out names and saying it was ‘inappropriate’ to hire a public train for a campaign Politics.

The residents who came to see Yoon were largely welcoming.

“It’s just part of an election event (to do regional rounds), and, I’m not saying I’m going to vote for Yoon, but it’s always encouraging when politicians visit our city,” he said. said the owner of a dried seafood store. at Namwon Traditional Market in his late 60s told the Korea Herald.

Moon Tae-hyun, a 23-year-old college student, was one of Yoon’s supporters who waited outside Suncheon Station with a camera in hopes of snapping a photo of the presidential candidate.

“I came to see Yoon Suk-yeol. Honam is widely considered the stronghold of the liberal bloc, and my parents are also supporters of the Democratic Party. But I am a strong supporter of the Conservative People Power Party, as are many of my friends,” Moon said.

As Yoon repeated his messages in all stops on regional development, the party also released details of the candidate’s campaign promises. While the passion train departed ahead of the official solicitation period on Friday, the party said all events during the train journey were part of its political campaign.

Pledges made in cities in North Jeolla Province include building an international airport on reclaimed land in Saemangeum; the relocation of banks to the provinces and measures to attract foreign investment to make the province a “financial hub”; and building more roads to improve connectivity between regions.

In South Jeolla Province, Yoon pledged to foster the renewable energy industry and set up a “space and aerospace industry cluster” in Goheung, where the country’s space launch observatory is located.

Yoon speaks to reporters inside the Passion Train on Saturday.  (Yonhap)

Yoon speaks to reporters inside the Passion Train on Saturday. (Yonhap)

Yoon Suk-yeol Train renamed Passion Train

Election tours in the regions are an integral part of the electoral campaign of candidates during an election period. Yoon has already traveled to several cities, including Jeju, to meet with voters there, as has his main opponent, Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, who rented buses to travel every weekend, as part of its “Metabus” policy. campaign – the name is an abbreviation of a Korean expression meaning “I take the bus every week”.

But this is the first time that a political campaign has hired a train.

According to the People Power Party, the use of a train aims to reach medium and small towns, and pointed out that it was designed to announce election promises for the regions.

According to People Power Party officials, they were careful in planning the train trip so as not to violate any election laws. Although they made sure that renting the public train didn’t violate any election laws, they had to change the train’s name to Passion Train from the “Yoon Suk-yeol Train” they originally planned.

Korea’s election law prohibits candidates in a national election from soliciting activities before a specified period, which prohibits the party from naming the car using the candidate’s name, and also from decorating the outside of the train.

Other solicitation activities, such as the distribution of name cards and other printed matter, the erection of advertising signs and the use of trucks with makeshift platforms for candidates, are permitted only during periods designated solicitations.

Passengers on the Passion train were also tightly screened, with the campaign team giving permission after examining their ID and COVID-19 vaccine passes. Passengers also paid the train fare, which costs around 10,000 to 14,000 won.

The party plans to operate the passion train for a second trip to visit the southeast – the northern and southern provinces of Gyeongsang, Daegu, Ulsan and Busan – from Feb. 26.

Party leader Lee Jun-seok is expected to lead the trip, and Yoon may also join the two-day trip, the party said.

By Jo Herim ([email protected])