Who is going to win in the Presidential election in December 2017--According to a survey published by local Korean-language daily, Chungcheong Ilbo, on Aug. 23, 2014, the frontrunner is Chairman Kim Moo-sung of the ruling Saenuri Party who won the first place in a recent Gallup survey with a 16.2% support.
Kim was followed by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon with 15.4%, Rep. Moon Jae-in of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) with 15.3%, former Chairman Chung Mong-joon of Saenuri with 9.3%, former Co-Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo of NPAD with 8.6%, former Gyeonggi Province Governor Kim Moon-soo with 6.2%, incumbent Gyeonggi Province Governor Nam Kyung-pil with 4.2%, Chungcheongnam-do Province Governor Ahn Hee-jung with 3.9% and Chairperson Park Young-sun of the NPAD Emergency Measures Committee with 1.4%.
Perhaps nothing fluctuates more than do the results of the public opinion polls on the Presidential hopefuls and candidates.
During the 2012 Presidential election campaign, the then Independent Presidential Candidate Ahn Cheol-soo was the front runner in a Real Meter survey on Nov. 11, 2012 when he scored a 49.3% support of the people that was 5,9% more than the then ruling Saenuri Party Presidential Candidate Park Geun-hye who got 43.4%. However, Park prevailed over Moon Jae-in with a 0.8% margin over Moon’s 42.7% score.
There also are the participation of unexpected Presidential candidates who can also seriously affect the results of the opinion surveys on the Presidential candidates. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is one of them.
According to a survey published by the independent Korean-language Sisa Week on June 11, 2014, the front runner was Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations with 23.1%, who was followed by Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon with 15.3%, Rep. Moon Jae-in of NPAD with 14.2%, Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo (NPAD) with 8.4% and former Chairman Chung Mong-joon of Saenuri with 6.5%.
The tenure of office of Secretary General Ban expires on Dec. 31, 2016, and he has roughly a year to prepare himself for the Presidential election if he wants to run.
The above examples indicate that the opinion polls on the Presidential different candidates will continue to fluctuate sometimes with a very large margin and sometimes with small differences.
So the survey results on the Presidential candidates do not have any significant meaning until those poll results that will be taken shortly before the actual election day on Dec. 20, 2017.
What can, then, be used as a criterion for speculating on the winner of the 2017 Presidential election?
It is the different proportions of the people’s support for the different political-ideological inclinations.
On this point, Political Editor Ahn Eui-sik of Korean-language Seoul Kyungje (business daily) published an interesting view in a column published on Aug. 7, 2014.
He sees not the popularity rating of the different Presidential candidates at this time but the support bases of the different political-ideological and regional groups.
According to the Real Meter opinion survey on the approval rating of the different political parties in the last week of July this year, Saenuri has the 43.6% support followed by NPAD with 28.5%, modest progressive Justice Party (JP) with 6.1% and the out-and-out progressive United Progressive Party (UPP) with 2.%.
Even if you put together the support rating of the entire opposition camp, the total rating is only 36.3% including those of the JP and UPP.
However, there are people’s support ratings for the political-ideological groups that do not change as frequently as do the support rating of the different political parties or individual Presidential candidates.
Of the total number of supporters for the political parties and organizations of the nation, 35% are considered to be consistent supporters of the ruling (conservative) camp, 30% for the traditional opposition camp formed with 25% from the traditional opposition party such as the NPAD and 5% from the progressive group.
This leaves 35% which are considered to be the middle-of-the- roaders who do not belong either to the conservative ruling camp or to the opposition groups. The size of these centrists varies although not radically in terms of their support for the candidates and, in the opinion of many political observers, they generally account for 50% of the total number of voters, and they favor the candidates who, like themselves, are middle-of-the- roaders.
The ruling and opposition politicians consider these people, about one half of the population, ‘unowned by anybody’ and therefore available to them if they try really hard to win their heart.
These middle-of-the- roaders were the power base of the then Presidential Candidate Ahn Cheol-soo in 2012 Presidential election, who made Ahn the front runner with the support of reform-oriented people in the conservative (ruling) camp and modest-minded people in the opposition camp.
The middle-of-the- roaders liked Ahn because although they wanted reforms carried out in the government and all segments of Korean society they did not want it done by the opposition politicians as they included the so-called Jongbuk Jwabbal (pro-North Korean leftists and Reds).
Ahn is known among the people as being a very smart person who succeeds in whatever he does. Ahn successfully converted himself from a medical doctor to an IT mogul, an extremely successful CEO like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and then to a noted scientist and scholar leading in fusion science.
When politicians in South Korea, especially the opposition-oriented politicians, talk about carrying out reforms, the conservative people (and even some of the middle-of-the- roaders) mind to some extent as they become apprehensive over the possibility of their being suspected of having a link with the opposition camp that includes the progressives, some of whom are classified Jongbuk Jwabbal (pro-North Korean leftists and Reds).
In the case of Ahn, however, this is vindicated by the fact that he is a successful business company CEO who cannot be a Jongbuk Jwabbal as he is also a very rich man with several hundreds of billions of Won (several hundred million dollars).
Ahn’s popularity rating had skyrocketed even before his declaration of joining the political arena in Korea in 2012. Ahn had lectured at universities and other public organizations visiting various localities in Korea as well as Seoul and pointed out the ills in the Korean society where Jaebeol big businesses ‘preyed on’ the defenseless small and medium enterprises with the covert support of, or connivance with, the corrupt officials of the government and political parties.
The social ills included maldistribution of the fruits of economic development of Korea and serious social divide that resulted from government protection of the Jaebeol big businesses at the expense of the SMEs and the common people during the period of so-called ‘Dictatorial Economic Development.’ This situation was commonly called ‘Ahn Cheol-soo Syndrome’ as such abnormal conditions were pointed out by Ahn in a telling manner.
Standing out from the ‘Ahn Cheol-soo Syndrome’ is the so-called ‘Jaebeol’s Zoo.’ In this ‘Zoo’ the Jaebeol businesses intern defenseless and helpless small-medium enterprises in the cages and suck blood from the caged animals. Here the Jaebeol businesses are compared to heartless male upstarts in Korea who take bear’s bile taken from a living bear through a pipe implanted into the bear’s gall bladder confined in a cage. The rich male customers drink the bile believing that it would be good for increasing male potency that they need to maintain the extra ‘wives’ (mistresses) they keep on the strength of their wealth.
The late President Park Chung-hee, who ruled South Korea from 1961 to 1979 after his successful coup d’etat, is respected by many people for his rare achievements that successfully extricated the Korean people from the abysmal rut of abject poverty through successful implementation of repeated economic development plans.
In the process, however, proper distribution of the fruits of rapid economic development were not made evenly between the Jaebeol businesses and the SMEs ultimately making the rich richer and the poor poorer giving birth to a serious social divide and a phenomenon which Ahn called ‘Jaebeol’s Zoo.”
It is known that President Park Chung-hee had been mindful of this situation and mapped out plans to gradually correct the woes. However, he was unable to do it because he unexpectedly passed away as he was shot to death by Director Kim Jae-kyu of the KCIA (Korean Central Intelligence Agency).
There have been no improvements made to the situation by the succeeding governments of Presidents Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo, both military general-turned politicians. Chun seized control of the government with another military coup and the government was handed down to his comrade-in-arms Roh Tae-woo. However, Roh retired from military service and declared that he would run in the Presidential election instead of taking over the government as a military general. Roh won?thanks to the political split in the opposition camp between the mild opposition party of Kim Young-sam and the more liberal party of Kim Dae-jung.
Then came the liberal civilian governments of former opposition political leaders, Presidents Kim Young-sam, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Some improvements were made during the three consecutive governments of former opposition parties, but there still remained much room for improvement.
With the passage of time, however, the people gradually became sick and tired of the pro-North Korean ‘Sunshine’ engagement policies of the two governments (of Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun).
People complained that the two liberal Presidents gave economic benefits valued at US$8 billion to North Korea, which the North used in developing nuclear weapons and missiles to attack South Korea and the United States with.
It is said that the North Korean regime used only one half of the US$8 billion in developing nuclear weapons and missiles and that the regime still had US$4 billion left usable in further developing and sophisticating the nuclear bombs and missiles against South Korea and the US.
Against this backdrop, the conservative Uri Party of President Lee Myung-bak recovered the lost control of government by winning the Presidential election in December 2007. The people gave him the winning votes because of the pro-North Korean policies of the governments of Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
To the chagrin and disappointment of the SMEs and common people, however, President Lee Myung-bak (former CEO of Hyundai Engineering & Construction) used economic policies in favor of the Jaebeol big businesses and the haves at the expense of the SMEs and havenots (common people) with the result that the social divide further aggravated. Lee gave birth to a situation in South Korea, where the rich became richer and the poor poorer and where the middle class literally collapsed.
The Saenuri Party of President Park Geun-hye won the Presidential election in December 2012. However, it was by a very small margin. Contributing to her victory more was the then opposition Democratic Party (DP) Candidate Moon Jae-in who, with the influence and support of the pro-Roh Moo-hyun Faction in the DP, literally forced the then front-running Independent Presidential Candidate Ahn Cheol-soo (who had no political party to support him and compete with Moon). Visibly against his will, Ahn gave up his Presidential candidacy to third-place runner Moon Jae-in.
There was common feeling in the opposition camp that a single candidate is needed to compete with Park. Ahn gave up his candidacy although he had much stronger support of the people than Moon did.
Park won the election with a very small margin (namely 3.6%) winning 51.6% of the total number of votes (15,773,128) vis-a-vis 48% (16,692,632) won by Moon.
Political experts say that the political situation was very much disadvantageous to the ruling camp at the time and that “it was an election that the opposition party could not fail to win.” In this situation, if the competition had been between Park and Ahn, the result could have been the opposite because during the election campaign period Ahn had 49.3% of the people’s support in opinion polls vis-a-vis 43.4% won by Park, a margin of 5.9% in favor of Ahn.
Where does Ahn Cheol-soo, the frontrunner candidate in 2012 Presidential election, stand today?
Following the humiliating defeat suffered by NPAD at the National Assembly by-elections on July 30 this year and the gubernatorial and mayor elections earlier on June 4, Ahn resigned as a co-chairman of the NPAD shortly after the unsuccessful outcome of the by-elections, and now he is a ‘standing advisor’ of the NPAD.
What has made the people’s support rating of Ahn plummet from the top place to the fifth place in the Presidential candidate opinion polls today?
The biggest cause is considered to be his ‘altruism’ and traits of making concessions.
During the Seoul mayoral by-election on Oct. 26, 2011, the then independent Candidate Ahn Cheol-soo had more than 55% of the support of the Seoul citizens, while Park Won-soon had only 5% (repeat 5%). However, Ahn gave up the election in support of Park. Park won with Ahn’s support although he had been lagging far behind ruling Saenuri Party’s Candidate Nah Kyung-won.
The second big concession he made was during the 2012 Presidential election. Ahn was the front runner followed by Park and Moon. However, Ahn gave up the candidacy in favor of Moon under the pressure of the then Democratic Party (DP) that wanted a single candidate of the entire opposition camp. Ahn reluctantly gave up his candidacy and left for the United States as soon as he had cast his vote.
Naturally, Moon lost the election to Park disappointing the entire opposition camp that had so ardently sought the change of government from the conservatives to the liberals.
Ahn made the third concession when he reluctantly agreed to the party nomination of candidates for the gubernatorial and mayoral last June demanded by the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction in the NPAD led by Moon Jae-in. Ahn had advocated a system where the party leaders should not nominate the candidates in the local elections so that the candidates most popular among the voters could run without the interference of the party leadership.
The fourth and last compromise Ahn made was during the July parliamentary by-elections where he made his closest New Politics comrade-in-arms Kum Tae-sup give up his candidacy for the Dongjak Eul District in favor of Park Won-soon’s secretary.
The given name, Cheol-soo (撤收), is a homonym of ‘withdrawal’ (compromise) and the friendly critics of Ahn advise him to make no more ‘withdrawals’ (compromises).
However, many political observers find fault with factionalism in the NPAD which consists of pro-Roh Moo-hyun group of failed NPAD Presidential Candidate Moon Jae-in, old DP Faction and other factions formed around leading figures of the party.
On the failure of the NPAD in the National Assembly by-elections and the gubernatorial-mayoral elections, a typical view was published by Mirae Simin News written by Columnist Choi Chang-Chu on Aug. 17, 2014. Excerpts follow:
Factional strife in the NPAD is largely responsible for the party’s loss of the July 30 parliamentary by-elections. The environment in the party was anything but favorable for the ‘New Politics’ advocated by Ahn Cheol-soo and accepted by the NPAD. The result was its loss of the by-elections and resignation of Ahn from the NPAD as co-chairman. Ahn said that he would remain as a plain member of the party but later was designated as a ‘standing advisor’ of the party with Co-Chairman Kim Han-gil with the same title.
For the past 11 years and 6 months since the departure of President Kim Dae-jung, the NPAD (former DP) has failed to show a proper vision for the improvement of the people’s living. The party leaders only sought to secure their own interests. This is why the NPAD lost the race with Saenuri even in the Jeolla provinces, the traditional seat of power of the NPAD.
The next problem is the factional strife, especially the pro-Roh group and the ‘486 Generation’ (politicians in the age bracket of the 40s, graduated from university in the 1980s and born in the 1960s). Due to this situation, the NPAD lost the elections where the conditions were so good for the party that simply they could not fail.
The Jeolla provinces are no longer the power seat region of the NPAD. In the Suncheon and Gokseong electoral districts in the region, the voters gave the NPAD a ‘red card’ by electing the rival Saenuri candidate. This was because the NPAD designated a candidate who ill-became the party for New Politics.
When Ahn Cheol-soo joined the DP newly forming the NPAD on condition that the NPAD adopt the New Politics (advocated by Ahn) which required the party leaders to abstain from nominating election candidates. However, the pro-Roh Faction of Moon Jae-in and the hard-line 486 Faction obstructed the adherence to that principle at the local elections and consequently lost the elections due to the absence of (Ahn’s) New Politics and reforms.
Cause of the failure in the two elections is the DP faction of the NPAD and not because of the New Politics (of Ahn).
The New Politics will live. Advocates of the New Politics (eg, Ahn) should take one from two options: Either reform the DP (NPAD) or say goodbye to it. The New Politics should be carried on at any rate.
The NPAD should pursue reforms and try to recover the progressive spirit. Reforms are the only answer to revive the life of the NPAD. Only then will the people have trust in the NPAD.
With New Politics, they should try to erase the image of the Jeolla provinces from the NPAD. Regionalism should no longer be used as a means of vote-getting. The strongest supporter of the New Politics is not so much the Jeolla provinces as the entire land of the Republic of Korea.
All the rights of the NPAD should be given back to the plain members of the party. The old practices of exercising the vested rights by a little over 200 leaders of the party (eg, lawmakers and local chapter chairmen) are in the way blocking the smooth implementation of the reforms. All major decisions such as election of the party leader and regional committee chairmen should be given to the plain party members. Most of the members of the party are fully qualified to carry out such missions. This is the only way to overcome the factional feud in the party.
The New Politics must be recovered in all areas. The New Politics are designed to replace the old system and convention. The NPAD used New Politics only in slogan-chanting. Chairperson Park Young-sun of the NPAD should try to form a new lineup of the NPAD only with New Politics in mind. What can the NPAD (New Politics Alliance for Democracy) do without New Politics?
Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo must also join in this effort. The NPAD should start all over again discarding all the things it had had before.
The NPAD has a national convention slated for next year. The NPAD must completely replace everything it has with New Politics. If the NPAD still wants to continue its factional politics after a national convention with no substantial reform, the NPAD had better close itself down. If the NPAD does not want to accept New Politics, advocates of New Politics (such as Ahn) should pull out from the party in a bold manner. This is the common belief and demand of the people who ardently support the New Politics. This is the only direction toward the party’s victory.
Here is a warning to Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo: “You have made three concessions. You made the first concession by conceding your Presidential candidacy to Moon Jae-in in 2012, you made the second one by compromising the (New Politics) reforms when you merged with the DP and you made the third one by conceding your party leadership right during the June-4 local elections and the July-30 parliamentary by-elections.
Sun Zi Bing Fa of China (Military Strategy of Sun Zi) says, “You can fail three times, but you are never excused for a fourth failure.”
For Ahn, there is no time for a fourth mistake. Future of the Republic of Korea depends on the New Politics. The only way to victory is to establish New Politics as the leader of the NPAD