Korean political fabric, future of Seoul .. all on the line

Disclaimer: The following is a totally unauthoritative translation of an article appeared in <Hankook Ilbo> on October 25, 2011, briefly describing the political meaning of by-election that will be held the next day. Though brief, it touches all important aspects I think and that’s why I translated here. All rights regarding this post rest on the author of the original article (in Korean) and on <Hankook Ilbo>. This post will be scrapped by their requests accordingly. Original article (in Korean) can be located by the link at the bottom.

October 26 by-election … the political meaning of Seoul mayoral election result

① Welfare policy / Han-river renaissance project / people’s livelihood policy all at stake

② Potential presidential candidates (Geun-hye Park, Cheol-soo Ahn, etc.) status also at stake

③ Leadership blow to loser side … possible political reshuffle

③ Winners will be able to maneuver domestic politics until general election next year

Eyes over eyes on the last election campaign … on October 25, the eve of October 26 by-election, huge number of Seoul citizens gathered at one street and heard the speech of a candidate. (Photo by Young-kwon Ko)

On October 26, re- and by-elections to elect the Mayor of Seoul and 11 other leaders of local wards etc. will be held simultaneously in 42 constituencies all over Korea.

Depending on voters’ choices, the future of Korean political fabric and of Seoul itself will change substantially. In particular, the result of Seoul mayoral election between candidate Kyoung-won Na (Grand National Party; GNP) and independent candidate Won-soon Park will determine not only the future of Seoul city administration but also the general direction of political destination. It can shake even the composition of presidential election in December next year, not to mention the general election in April next year.

That’s because the election is framed from the start as a direct confrontation between a ruling party candidate and a unified opposition candidate from a civil activist group and then influential potential presidential candidates from ruling as well as opposition parties also participated in election campaigns, which magnified the political meaning of it.

The result of Seoul mayoral election will determine first the direction of administration policy that will affect 10M Seoul citizens. Depending on the election result, welfare policy like free school meals, Han-river renaissance project, and people’s livelihood policy like job creation will form its basic shape.

Second, the result of this election which transformed into a proxy presidential election will have decisive effects on the status and fate of influential potential presidential candidates. ‘General perception on Geun-hye Park’s leading candidacy’ that has been lingering on for about 4 years will either experience a critical blow or be fortified depending on the result. Whether ‘Cheol-soo Ahn’s gush’ that hit hard Korean political sphere will subside or will further be intensified also depends on the election result.

Third, this election will decide the future of leaderships of both ruling and opposition parties. Depending on the election result, leading officials responsibility will float and it can possibly lead to reshuffling of leadership or of total political sphere. If candidate Na loses, responsibility blames will be focusing on the current leader June-pyo Hong for GNP. During the blaming aftermaths, the whole ruling party will be sucked into a political frenzy. If independent candidate Won-soon Park loses, Democratic Party (DP) that could not put its own candidate into the election race and lose the election despite its all-out support will be engulfed into a political chaos. The political status of DP leader Hak-gyoo Sohn or Jae-in Moon, the director of Roh Moo-hyun foundation, will drop naturally. If candidate Park wins the election, civic groups will come forward in domestic political scene and push forward the restructuring of existing political order by creating a new party and so on.

Fourth, the result of this election has direct ramifications on the general election in April next year. Those who win this election will maneuver the whole domestic politics until that time. To the contrary, those who lose will be forced to experience chaos due to proliferation of demands for change and reform.

This by-election will go on from 6AM to 8PM October 26 at each constituency. According to the Central Election Management Committee, basic outline of the winner will appear around 11PM but, in some super-tightly-matched regions, winners will be determined after midnight.

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