News / Asia

On Election Eve, S. Korean Contenders Locked in Tight Race

South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of ruling Saenuri Party raises her arms  during her presidential election campaign in Busan, South Korea, December 18, 2012.
South Korea's presidential candidate Park Geun-hye of ruling Saenuri Party raises her arms during her presidential election campaign in Busan, South Korea, December 18, 2012.
— Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a former South Korean dictator, and Moon Jae-in, the former chief of staff of another previous president, are locked in a tight race to determine who will be South Korea's new leader.
 
The election takes place Wednesday to replace President Lee Myung-bak, who is constitutionally limited to a single five-year term.
 
Park, if elected, would become South Korea's first female president and the first to follow a parent into the Blue House. Her father, Park Chung-hee, was president from 1961 to 1979.
 
During a news conference Tuesday, the candidate of the conservative Saenuri (New Frontier) Party borrowed the “Let's Live Well” slogan from her father's era, reminding people of the economic growth that came under his leadership.
 
Park says she will restore the “collapsed middle class” so that it encompasses 70 percent of the population and revives the “economic miracle” realized under her father's rule.
 
The liberal Moon of the Democratic United Party has also vowed to address the increasing income disparity in Asia's fourth largest economy, which both candidates acknowledge has widened under the administration of the incumbent President Lee Myung-bak.
 
Moon says he will be a president “who wipes away the peoples' tears.”
 
Speaking to reporters on the eve of the election, Moon also vowed to be “the president of jobs,” while supporting welfare for those who are ill or cannot work, and a “healing president” who would ease the pain of ordinary people and bring comfort to what he called their lives of relative deprivation.
 
Moon was the chief of staff to President Roh Moo-hyun, who was in office between 2003 and 2008.
 
Opinion polls

The latest pre-election public surveys indicate Park maintains a narrow lead over Moon.
 
Political analyst Hwang Tae-soon of the Wisdom Center think tank says North Korea's provocative multi-stage rocket launch that propelled an apparently non-functioning satellite into space last week does not seem to have influenced South Korean voters, even though it proved to be a rare propaganda victory for the impoverished and isolate North over its wealthier rival.
 
South Korea has tried and failed three times to launch a satellite into space.
 
Hwang points to already established policy differences between the two candidates regarding North Korea.
 
Moon has pledged to hold a summit with North Korea in the first year of his presidency. Park says she will not agree to any summit until Pyongyang apologizes for its military provocation that occurred in recent years.
 
Park's mother, First Lady Yu Young-soo, was shot dead in 1974 by a pro-North Korean agent.
 
Park Chung-hee took power after leading a 1961 coup and led the country until his assassination by the head of his intelligence agency in 1979. His legacy makes some liberal voters uncomfortable about voting for his daughter. But others say the autocrat should get credit for presiding over strong economic growth, and Park Geun-hye should not be saddled with the taint of the repression that permeated her father's rule.

South Korea's presidential candidate of Democratic United Party Moon Jae-in gestures to supporters while campaigning in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 18, 2012.
South Korea's presidential candidate of Democratic United Party Moon Jae-in gestures to supporters while campaigning in Seoul, South Korea, Dec. 18, 2012.

 
About Moon

Her opponent is the son of refugees from the North. He organized student protests against Park Chung-hee's autocratic government.  As a result, he was forcibly conscripted into the military. Moon later became a prominent human rights lawyer and eventually a close aide to President Roh, who committed suicide in 2009, after he left office, amid an investigation into a bribery scandal.
 
Another key contrast between the two candidates, according to Wisdom Center political analyst Hwang, is their stance on South Korea's power “chaebol” business conglomerates.
 
Hwang notes that Park has toned down calls to reform the conglomerates, taking a moderate approach focusing on fair trade. Moon, he explains, wants restrictions on cross-shareholdings by the giant corporate groups, which are blamed for suffocating smaller-sized firms.
 
Moon also wants revisions to the controversial free trade pact with the United States. Park says the agreement is good as it stands, unless problems arise during its implementation.
 
Moon's candidacy received a late boost when a high profile independent, Ahn Cheol-soo, a wealthy entrepreneur popular with young voters, dropped out of the race and urged his followers to vote for Moon, although his support was seen by many as lukewarm.
 
Lackluster campaign

Asan Institute for Policy Studies president Hahm Chai-bong says, overall, this campaign does not seem as exciting as past South Korean presidential elections.
 
“There's something about this election that just doesn't energize people. Is it the personality of the candidates? Is it the people just being sick and tired of the political system itself? It's also the longstanding, very sharp bifurcations, the divisions within the country no longer seem to function,” Hahm said in recent remarks at the Seoul Foreign Correspondents' Club.
 
The National Election Commission forecasts a 70 percent voter turnout.  Analysts say Moon needs to see a turnout around 75 percent to boost his chances for a victory.
 
The elder generation strongly supports Park and has a higher turnout rate on election day than younger voters who are more likely to cast their ballots for Moon.
 
Youmi Kim in the VOA Seoul bureau contributed to this report.

You May Like

Mali's Female Basketball Players Rebound After Islamist Occupation

Islamist extremists ruled northern Mali for most of 2012, imposing strict Sharia law, and now some 18 months later, the region is slowly getting back on its feet More

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

Many Chinese-made products go unsold, for now, with numerous Vietnamese consumers still angry over recent dispute More

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: RT
December 18, 2012 6:43 PM
Choice is really between a (female) Engineer who wants to build economic growth for everybody and a protest lawyer who can't earn foreign exchange but wants to destroy & rob existing employers using policies similar to the impoverished north, his family previously escaped from.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid