By Chung Min-uck
The liberal camp is elated by famous public figures rallying behind Park Won-soon, the unified opposition candidate, with less than a week left before the Seoul mayoral by-election on Oct. 26.
The mayoral vote has become even more unpredictable, in a neck-and-neck race, as various opinion polls show.
Many celebrities Thursday gathered at the headquarters of the liberal camp's joint election committee in Anguk-dong, Seoul, to discuss how to support Park, who is recently slipping in the polls though he had led in the initial stage.
The so-called "mentor group" in support of Park is comprised of novelists Lee Oi-soo, Gong Ji-young, Seoul National University Law School professor Cho Kuk and former director of the Cultural Heritage
"Humans can't live independently. We should work together and dream together. I really feel thankful that socially established figures have come to support me", said Park during a lunch with members of the mentor group.
"We should pick a person who has a philosophy in one's life. That is Park Won-soon", said Gong, writer of the book that the controversial movie "Silenced" was based on.
"Park Won-soon has the ability of turning despair into hope. He has been through things that no one has experienced. I respect this kind of life. I am supporting him without a doubt", said actress Kim.
In the latest opinion polls conducted by multiple media and research centers, Na Kyung-won, the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) candidate was ahead of Park in almost half of the surveys.
The election law prohibits conducting public surveys from six days before the actual polling day, set for next Wednesday.
Experts say that celebrities plunging into the election campaigns for the liberal camp are expected to appeal to tech-savvy young voters, as members of the mentor group are known as power-users of social networking services (SNS).
Lee Oi-soo, a renowned writer, is one of the nation's biggest users of Twitter with more than 960,000 followers. It is estimated that the total number of followers of members of the group who have declared their backing of the liberal candidate could amount to 1.5 million.
The mentor group is planning to gather once more on Saturday in a bid to woo support from young voters.
Meanwhile, the liberal camp is also increasing smear campaigns against Na.
It has accused the conservative candidate of tax evasion after she became a member of the GNP in 2003 and is looking into the emerging rumor that she has been receiving skin treatments at a high-class clinic costing around 100 million won annually.
In response, the GNP continues to tackle Park on improper funding of his foundation, academic forgery and military-service evasion.
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