By Lee Kyung-sik, Publisher of The Korea Post
Secretary General Ban Ki-moon of the United Nations is almost four times more popular than the runner-up as Korea’s next President. This was disclosed by an opinion survey conducted by Ace Research and published by independent Korean-language daily Seoul Shinmun on Jan. 1, 2015.
Specifically, Ban won 38.7% of the total number of votes of the respondents followed by Rep. Moon Jae-in of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy with 9.8%, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon (NPAD) with 7.4%, former Gyeonggi Governor Kim Moon-soo (ruling Saenuri Party) with 4.2%, Chairman Kim Moo-sung of Saenuri with 4% and Advisor Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo of NPAD with 3.8%.
In a separate opinion survey conducted by Korea Research and published by opposition-oriented independent Korean-language daily Kyunghyang Shinmun on Dec. 31, 2014, Ban won 24.4% followed by Park Won-soon with 12%, Moon Jae-in with 10.6%, Kim Moon-soo with 5.7%, Ahn Cheol-soo with 5.3%, Kim Moo-sung with 4.4%, former Chairman Chung Mong-joon of Saenuri (chairman of Hyundai Heavy Industries) with 3.5% and Governor Ahn Hee-jung of Chungcheongnam-do Province with 3.2%.
So, provided Ban would agree to run in the 2017 Presidential election, on which party’s ticket would he run?
The so-called pro-Park Geun-hye faction in the Saenrui Party is in a situation where they need Ban whereas Chairman Kim Moo-sung won the leadership of the party at the last national convention. Kim Moo-sung is considered to be reform-minded and to be outside of the pro-Park faction.
At president, Kim Moo-sung is the surest bet for the Saenuri Presidential candidate as far as the public opinion is concerned both in and outside the party, but he has formidable competitors in the party, especially the so-called pro-Park hopefuls.
The NPAD, too, has a great deal of affection for Ban because the people’s opinion of the party is not very high and Moon, who failed in the last Presidential election, has many opponents in the party if he wants to try again in 2017 after his failure in 2012.
Advisor Kwon No-gap of the NPAD (No. 2 man during the days of the late former President Kim Dae-jung) recently said, “Some close associates of Mr. Ban have asked me of the NPAD’s response as to Ban as the Presidential candidate for the opposition party.” Ban has officially denied this report.
In fact, howver, records show that Ban has a closer past relationship with the NPAD than with Saenuri. Ban was the minister of foreign affairs and trade 2004-6 and the chief Presidential secretary for foreign affairs 2003-4?all during the government the progressive-oriented late former President Roh Moon-hyun. Ban became the UN secretary-general in December 2006 when Roh was in power.
This means that it all depends on how the ruling and opposition parties will fare in the next three years?in the eyes of the people, the voters.
If the popularity rating of the two parties is on a par in 2017, observers predict, the chances are Ban may take sides with the present opposition camp.
However, as things stand at this time, there is little chance of the NPAD’s recovering the past face when at one time it reached the level of Saenuri following Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo’s joining of the then Democratic Party changing its name to the present NPAD.
Reports indicate that Ban recently told reports that he had no interest in the domestic politics in Korea and that he had no knowledge about his rising popularity as Korea’s next President.
Some political observers liken the present situation of Ban’s skyrocketing popularity as Korea’s next President to a similar fame that Ahn Cheol-soo got during the Presidential election in 2012 when he even prevailed on the then Saenuri Presidential Candidate Park Geun-hye who, ironically, defeated the official Presidential Candidate Moon Jae-in of the NPAD.
Ahn is now almost at the bottom of the popularity rating as Korea’s next President.
An official of Korea Research which conducted the separate survey at the request of Kyunghyang Shinmoon was quoted as saying on the situation: “It appears that Mr. Ban is filling the space vacated by Ahn because even Ahn and Park Won-soon are all classified ‘old politicians’ when the people want a new face who really represents ‘new politics’ in Korea and I would say that this kind of situation will continue quite for some time into the future.”