Image: Heo Gyeong-yeong on his Youtube channel, pledging not to make spam calls anymore. Credit: Heo Gyeong-yeong.
“Heo Gyeong-yeong 허경영 calls me more often than my mother” is a common and exasperated sentiment among many in Korea during this presidential campaign season. The eccentric cult leader who claims to levitate and teleport is running for president again, after failed bids at two presidential races, one Assembly election and three local elections. (See previous coverage, “Heo Gyeong-yeong’s Antics.”)
This time, he has brought his automated calling machine, ringing millions of Korean phones with his pre-recorded message encouraging people to vote. The automated calls are estimated to cost as much as KRW 200m (USD 168k) per round - a cost that the deep-pocketed Heo is willing to bear. His goal apparently is to appear in the televised debate for the election. Under the Public Elections Act 공직선거법, candidates who (1) are from a party with five or more legislators in the National Assembly 국회; (2) are from a party that won more than 3% of the total votes in the Presidential Election, Assembly Election, or Local Elections immediately prior, or; (3) have polled for more than 5% support on average are eligible to appear in the televised debate.
At least in one poll conducted recently - by Hangil Research 한길리서치 from January 8 to 10 - Heo received 3.2% support. Heo was ahead of the Justice Party’s Sim Sang-jeong 심상정 정의당 대선후보, which caused the minor progressive candidate to temporarily suspend her campaign.