Back to the Presidential‘Palace’

<South Korea : 2012 Presidential Election>

Lee Yu Kyung

A picture of the former dictator Park Jung-Hee, whose daughter has been just elected to be South Korea’s president on December 19th, appeared at the heart of the country’s capital Seoul late night of the voting day as supporters celebrating daughter’s victory. She scored 51.5% of the vote whereas the main opposition candidate Moon Jae-In with 48%. The picture was ominous to many, particularly those who vividly remember her father’s totalitarian rule for 18 years in 60s and 70s.

Ironically, it was these generations who overwhelmingly voted for Park either in obvious nostalgia on rapid economy growth under her father’s rule or cautious expectation of her campaign pledges particularly for economic recovery.

While voter turnout has ended at 75.8%, the highest was marked at the age of 50s with 89.9% and the age of 60s with 78.8%. Of these Park has enjoyed 62.5% and 72.3% supports respectively. Whereas voters aged 20s and 30s have turned out 65.2% and 72.5% respectively, and of these Park has been able to gain 33.7%% and 33.1% respectively. Apart from gross supports from the old generation, number of voters among 50~60s have been increasing while 20~30s’decreased. Therefore the assumption that heavy turnout would result in victory for liberal candidate Moon Jae-In has been proved to be a  myth in this aged society suffering from worsening economic recession.

Heavy turnout benefiting conservative

The 60 year old president-elect Park is soon going back to the Presidential Palace (or Blue House), where she has spent her childhood and served as an acting first lady since 1974 when her mother died. She has left the House 34 years ago as her father was assassinated at a drunken party in 1979.

While her victory is being portrayed by media as a country’s ‘first female president’, critics vehemently argue her ‘sex’ has nothing to do with pro-woman policy needless to say gender equality in principle, given her political nature rooted from her father’s macho politics.

There’s little doubt that her presidency is to see the country rightwards. Accordingly the country’s democratization, which has already seen huge set back during the incumbent president Lee Myung Bak’s 5 years tenure, is likely to be deteriorated even further.

To make things probably worse, Park is known to be stubborn despite her soft spoken and tender approach to matters. And it was disclosed that she was unbelievably ignorant at TV debates which she initially had tried to avoid. Yoon Yeo-Joon, the former minister who has served previous successive conservative regimes but declared support for liberal Moon this time, once described;

“We have known Park Geun-Hye as an imperial candidate, and no one can argue with her decision”

Proving it, in the latest development, she has appointed a far right wing figure Yeon Chang-Joon as a chief spokesperson for the Transition Committee on December 24th . The Committee would frame out upcoming administration until Park would inaugurate her presidency in February next year. The appointee is infamous with confrontational and lambasting words against whosoever oppositions. Among which was‘prostitute politicians’, for instance, referring to a couple of prominent supporters of opposition candidate Moon, which is being compared with Yeon’s loud praises on  Park.  Sexist words by a chief spokesperson have also conflicted “female presidency”, that Park camp has outright promoted. Yeon is a first release of the Committee members, which Park has reportedly alone been in a process of embodying keeping herself indoors since the election victory.

Confrontational figure as chief spokesperson for Park

Another point in crucial to note is about dynastic politics. The succession-like family politics has been largely accepted in Asia, particularly in South and South East Asia.

“Neo-oligarchic democracy, in which legacy of the authoritarian past has either revived or been implicit, has been witnessed in many of Asian countries. But South Korea had been free from it, which I called‘post-oligarchic democracy’. One of barometers was that the country has not seen yet the second generations in power”

Cho Hee-Yeon, a professor of Sungkonghoe University pointed out. However South Korea is not an exception anymore. Significantly, its eastern neighbour Japan has a new leader Shinzo Abe, the one from Abe family. And of course northern neighbour has 28 year-old Kim Jung-Eun, the 3rd generation Kim dynasty in North Korea. To add herself, Park has completed triangle dynasty in North East Asia. If one adds a case of China considering newly selected Chinese leader Xi Jinping is the second son of the Xi Zhongxun from the revolutionary communists’ generation, the region of North-East Asia as a whole is now honoured to be Dynasty bloc.

The Dynasty bloc has to cope with issues of regional security on which concerns are being emerged as territorial disputes between countries are on most of all fronts. And as newly elected regimes are all conservative in both South Korea and Japan, where the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is to be allied with Yushin Party, the Japan’s far right wing polity, it’s very likely for Japan and South Korea to have confrontational approach towards the North as well as pro-American polity to counter China.

North East Asia, Dynasty completed

Meanwhile, opposition forces – liberals and left alike – were bomb shelled by the result of election. One of the divided left candidates Kim So-Yeon has won only 0.05% of votes. Other left parties, which have long been in disarray due to irregularities during general election last April, have conceded their candidacy for Moon who nevertheless lost to the conservative. The result has reflected that the main opposition Democratic Unity Party (DUP)’has little ability to change regime even as most of opposition forces have stayed behind its candidate. The Party composed of variety from old fashioned politicians to liberal figures from civil society faces with huge challenge ever to rebuild its political entity from debris.

“In my view, there’s hardly anyone in opposition to deal with this crisis, unfortunately”said one political commentator.

* Note : The article above is an update in English version of previously published German version. To read German article here

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