Here we are, the grand conclusion of the viewer's guide for South Korean politics. Part III of this series will cover everyone's favorite event in politics--the horse-racing takes on the presidential election.
This election features the total of 15 candidates, but we will only cover the five presidential candidates who are polling over 1 percent. In order of polling numbers, the candidates are: Moon Jae-in, Ahn Cheol-soo, Hong Joon-pyo, Shim Sang-jeong and Yoo Seung-min. These five candidates represent the presidential candidates for the five largest political parties in Korea.
Under Korea's election regulations, each candidate is assigned a number in accordance with the number of National Assembly seats belonging to the candidate's party. This post will discuss the candidates in that order also, although Moon Jae-in (number 1) and Ahn Cheol-soo (number 3) are the two front runners. All the pictures of the candidates are the official campaign posters for this election, the very same posters are plastered all over Korea right now.
Full disclosure: although I am not eligible to vote in South Korea, I generally support Moon Jae-in.
1. MOON JAE-IN [문재인]
|Slogan: "Restoring the Country; the Dependable President"|
Born: January 24, 1953 (64 years old) in Geoje, a southeastern island near Busan, to North Korean parents who escaped the war.
Party Affiliation: Democratic Party [더불어민주당]
Ideological Position: Mainstream liberal / center-left
Current Polling: Around 40-44 percent in a five-way race.
Before Politics: Moon Jae-in was a law student and activist who fought against the Park Chung-hee dictatorship. He learned that he passed the bar while being in prison for protesting. As an attorney, Moon litigated against the dictatorship along with his law firm partner Roh Moo-hyun.
As a Politician: When his former law firm partner Roh Moo-hyun became the president, Moon entered politics and became Roh's chief of staff. Because of this beginning, Moon Jae-in has been strongly associated with Roh Moo-hyun's legacy, for better or for worse. Although Moon returned to his law practice after the Roh administration ended in 2007, he came back to politics after Roh committed suicide in 2009 amid a bribery investigation. Since then, Moon served as a National Assembly Member and the Chair of the Democratic United Party, which later became New Politics Alliance for Democracy and then again became the Democratic Party.
Moon Jae-in is considered level-headed and cerebral. Although he is not exactly a charismatic speaker, he has a passionate following of liberal voters who are galvanized by memories of Roh Moo-hyun, whom they consider to be driven to suicide because of the witch hunt conducted by the conservative Lee Myung-bak administration. Moon is also a relentless inside baseball-type politician who either transformed the Democratic Party into a party of professional expertise and meritocracy while repudiating patronage and machine politics (if you take the kindly view,) or into a party of pro-Moon Jae-in loyalists who would faithfully execute his goals (if you take the cynical view.)
Major Campaign Promises: 810,000 new jobs in public sector, such as police, healthcare and other health and safety personnel; transparent presidency and government; chaebol reform for anti-corruption.
He Will Win If: ... he hangs on. Moon Jae-in has always led the polls for the presidential race, sometimes by an overwhelming margin. He lost in a close race in the 2012 election, whose final margin was 51.6 percent to 48 percent. Moon still retains most of that 48 percent of the voters who are eager for a do-over. Meanwhile, his conservative/centrist opponents are divided, and pose no realistic threat unless they find a way to join forces.
He Will Lose If: ... he suffers a combination of self-inflicted wounds and conservative consolidation. In polls that ask for a head-to-head choice between Moon and Ahn Cheol-soo, the two candidates are essentially tied. Roh Moo-hyun administration, where Moon Jae-in began his political career, was highly polarizing. In a head-to-head situation where the opposing candidate attacks Moon based on the faults of Roh administration (and there really were many faults,) Moon Jae-in faces a real risk of defeat.
Trivia: Moon Jae-in likes climbing high mountains. He has visited the Himalayas four times and climbed up the Everest and Annapurna.
(More after the jump.)
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