By Lee Kyung-sik
Publisher-Chairman, The Korea Post media
It appears that the contest for the Presidential elections on the upcoming May 9 this year is going to be among Presidential Candidate Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Minjoo Party, second opposition People’s Party Presidential Candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, Bareun (Righteous) Party Presidential Candidate Yoo Seung-min and Governor Hong Joon-pyo of the southeasternmost province of Gyeongsangam-do.
Among the four winning contestants, Moon continues to lead all the others with scores that are almost (and sometimes more than) one half of the total number of votes won by all the three other candidates put together.
However, this situation has started crumbling with the ‘meteorological rise’ of Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party who continues make a significant progress in the opposition-strong Jeollanam-do and Jeollabuk-do provinces. Ahn is expected to continue to do well in many other regions of the country--although it is doubtful if he will eventually defeat Moon throughout the election contest.
Some election observers carefully predict that Ahn might be able to absorb the votes of the former ruling Saenuri Party led by the now-discredited former President Park Geun-hye. By birth Ahn hails from the traditionally conservative-strong Busan, the second largest city of the Republic of Korea.
His wife, Mrs. Kim Mi-kyung, hails from the opposition-strong Suncheon County of the Jeollanam-do, the rival province against the conservative-strong Gyeongsang region. The widely known military coup, the Yeosu- Suncheon Ballan Sageon, broke out right from that county on Oct. 19, 1948.
Ahn and his wife, Mrs. Kim, make an ideal combination, hailing from the two opposed provinces.
In contrast, Moon has hard time trying to win the heart of the people in Jeolla provinces as he has little relationship with the region--to speak nothing of his birth place in the rival Gyeongsang province.
If Ahn succeeds to form a coalition front with former Chairman Kim Jong-in of Moon’s Minjoo Party, who recently bolted from it in a discord with Moon and his followers in the Party, Ahn is seen to stand a very good chance to become the next President of the Republic of Korea to take over the control of government of the deposed former President Park Geun-hye.
In the recent election polls, Ahn made meaningful gains.
Ahn made a 5.4% gain compared with the latest previous polls, and jumped to the second place only after Moon--winning 16.6% of the polls.
Ahn was followed by another Ahn, namely Ahn Hee-jung of the same Moon’s Minjoo Party, who won 12.6% losing 4.9% from the previous score of 17.5%
In contrast, Ahn Hee-jung lost 12.6%, losing 4.9% compared with the scores he had won in the previous polls.
Another candidate from the same Minjoo Party, Mayor Lee Jae-myung of the Seongnam City of Gyeonggi Province, won 11.2% representing an increase of 1.8% compared with the previous poll result.
The fifth place winner was outspoken conservative Governor Hong Jun-pyo of the Gyeongsangnam-do Province who won 7.8%.
An earlier survey published by Star TV on March 26 showed Moon again winning the top place with 31%. At that time, Moon was followed by Ahn Hee-jung of the same party with 17%--and not by Ahn Cheol-soo.
At that time, Ahn Cheol-soo won only 10%, Seongnam City Mayor Lee Jae-myung 8% and Governor Hong Joon-pyo 6%. Progressive Democratic Justice Party President Candidate Madam Shim Sang-jung and conservative Liberty Korea Party Presidential Candidate Kim Jin-tae won 2% each and liberal conservative Bareun Party Presidential Candidate Yoo Seung-min won 1%. The respondents who reserved their answers were 19%.
The Liberty Korea Party and the Bareun Party are the two parties that have been born out of the now-defunct former ruling Saenuri Party formed by former President Park Geun-hye.
The poll result indicates a 2% drop for both Moon and Ahn Hee-jung which is attributed to the mud-slinging done by Moon and Ahn Hee-jung against each other at the time of a joint debate. In contrast, Governor Hong, strong supporter of former President Park, made a 4% gain.
Compared with the survey during the preceding week, Madam Shim, Kim Jin-tae, Yoo Seung-min and Sohn Hak-kyu made a 1% score each.
In the earlier polls during the third week of March, the poll results were Moon 33%, Ahn Hee-jung 18%, Ahn Cheol-soo 10%, Lee Jae-myung 8%, Hong Joon-pyo 2% and Shim Sang-jung and Kim Jin-tae 1% each.
However, another recent survey conducted by Korea Gallop disclosed a slight difference. It showed Moon Jae-in winning 42% followed by Ahn Cheol-soo with 23%, Hong Joon-pyo with 12%, Yoo Seung-min with 5% and Madam Shim Sang-jung with 4%.
On the popularity rating of the political parties in the same survey, the Minjoo Party of Moon Jae-in won 42% followed by the People’s Party of Ahn Cheol-soo with 13%, Liberty Korea Party with 13%, progressive Justice party with 5% and Bareun Party of Yoo Seung-min with 4%.
According to a separate survey recently conducted by the Korean- language daily, Munhwa Ilbo, Moon Jae-in won the top place in both the traditionally opposition- strong Jeolla Provinces and the traditionally conservative-oriented Gyeongsang Provinces.
Moon won 40.3% in the Jeolla provinces and 26.7% in the Gyeongsang provinces followed by Ahn Cheol-soo with 20.7% in Jeolla and 11.2% in Gyeongsang, Ahn Hee-jung with 14% in Jeolla and 16.1% in Gyeongsang, and Lee Jae-myung with 10.6% in Jeolla and 7% in Gyeongsang. Results of the others were negligible. (See table.)
Standing out from the others, however, was Hong Joon-pyo who got a whopping 14.9% support in the Gyeongsang provinces.
At this time, it is extremely difficult to predict as to who will eventually win the Presidential race in a climate where the front-running Moon continues to give way to the followers.
Still, Moon is way ahead of all the other followers, almost in a double score, and many Koreans predict that Moon will win eventually.
However, who knows?
This is the attitude on the part of many people in Korea today.
One outstanding feature related with the Presidential elections this year is the conspicuous absence of any visible worry or concerned response from the people in Korea in the face of repeated test of missiles by North Korea.
In the past, North Korean military provocations exerted a significant measure of influence on the outcome of the elections in the ROK and there are reports that the past conservative governments in the ROK purposely caused situations in the South putting the North on the alert. North Korea then made various military provocations in response and they worked in favor of the ruling party candidates.
In sheer contrast with the past, however, the military actions in the ROK, such the joint ROK-U.S joint military exercise and the military reactions from the North (such as firing of new missiles) appear to have little impact on the part of the voters in the ROK as no changes are noticed in the poll results on the Presidential candidates for this year’s race.