Choosing the Least Undesirable in Korea

Posted by: Ihlwan Moon on December 14, 2007

There’s no real excitement in South Korea only five days before the country’s presidential election. Few on the streets of Seoul doubt the candidate of the conservative opposition party, former Seoul mayor Lee Myung Bak, will win the December 19 vote. That’s not because voters have a love affair with Lee. Rather, the Koreans are so disillusioned with outgoing President Roh Moo Hyun’s promise to build a new, clean country that they are swinging back to the conservatives.

For many Koreans, the election five years ago of Roh, representing to the left of any previous South Korean leader, was an experiment with the liberals. Much of Roh’s popularity stemmed from his difference from leaders of the graft-ridden political establishment. Now, Roh has proven to be too centrist for reformers and too unpredictable for the conservatives. Moreover, several of Roh’s close associates have been tainted with corruption scandals recently.

So the game for the electorate is choosing a less undesirable candidate. The last popularity polls allowed in the campaign this week gave Lee, a former construction company boss nicknamed “the bulldozer,” a lead of almost 30 percentage points over his main rival Chung Dong Young, Roh’s political heir, who is suffering from his ideological links to the unpopular president.

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