Tom Coyner in the Korea Economic Reader has some good commentary on the recent Korean presidential debate:
It’s a CAT FIGHT!! Meow! Phhhht! Hissss! Hisss!
Wow! What a night! I was expecting to witness something as dreary as the US presidential debates. And boy oh boy, did I get that one wrong!
Here we had two real and one make-believe presidential candidates on stage, helpfully seated from left to right, as if according to their political leanings. On the far, far, far-out-of-sight left sat Lee Jung-hee of the Unified Progressive Party, with all poise and tact of very smart and impudent PoliSci grad student. On the right was Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party with the imperial demeanor of someone patiently waiting to wear purple. And in between these two women sat poor Mr. Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party.
If anyone charges the stage manager of a set up, it is would be entirely understandable. Lee, with her discredited reputation as a likely Pyongyang stooge and political hypocrite in how she got caught unethically manipulating her party’s candidates earlier this year, came on stage with a nothing-to-lose attitude. In fact, she succeeded in rattling Madam Park’s cage by openly stating that she was in the debate for the sole purpose of derailing Geun-hye’s drive for the Blue House. While coming across as the brightest and most articulate of the three, as only one can from being extremely well versed in an ideological discipline, Lee once accidentally let her true colors show when she referred to South Korea as Namchuk, the term used only by North Koreans.
While Lee operated like a communist interrogator with Park, Ms. Park in a more measured manner went on the counter attack, though not as aggressive or as articulate as Lee. Park came across as the least capable of the three, often looking at her notes, for which she is famous.
In any event, both Lee and Park more or less ignored Moon, as much as the rules of the debate would allow. Moon seemed like an uncle, caught between two scrabbling women, whose thoughts and suggestions were largely given lip service and ignored. Ironically, though Lee was there to attack Park and presumably increase Moon’s chances for election, she probably hurt Moon more than helped him.
According to Korean blog posts, there was a sympathy reaction for Park and a negative reaction towards Moon who was not able to raise himself above the on-stage ruckus. Lee, outside of her extremist radical fringe, did nothing to further her cause other than to remarkably raise her notoriety. Newest polling numbers may tell a different story, but before the debate, she was polling only 0.4% support.
Many older Koreans are disgusted that Lee was included in the debate given her inconsequential standing and her pulling the level of debate down from a better comparison between the major parties to a political harangue from the left of the Establishment and Ms. Park’s past.
There will be more of the same tonight on YTN television. Stay tuned!
Here is a translation of some more of the rhetoric from Lee Jung-hee from the Marmot’s Hole:
- On corruption: “Ms. Park spoke of stamping out political corruption. I can hardly believe it, since it comes from someone who maintained her status by receiving salaries derived from stolen goods. Former president Chun Doo-hwan paid Ms. Park KRW 600 million; at the time, you could purchase thirty apartment buildings with that kind of money, and it was the money that Park Chung-hee’s Yushin dictatorship received from chaebols. The Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation, of which Ms. Park was a chair of the board, is stolen goods that former president Park Chung-hee extorted from Kim Ji-tae. . . . NFP has so much corruption, but it cuts off its tail to protect Ms. Park’s poll numbers. Would Ms. Park promise the people to immediately resign from presidency if someone close to her received bribes?”
- On diplomacy: “The foundation of diplomacy is to protect the nation’s sovereignty. Takagi Masao, whose Korean name was Park Chung-hee, became the Japanese army officer by writing a letter of loyalty in blood. After the independence, he came to power through a coup d’etat and rammed through the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty. He wielded the iron fist of the Yushin dictatorship. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Ms. Park and the NFP — the descendants of Japanese collaboration and dictatorship — sold out Korea’s economic sovereignty by ramming through the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. They do not deserve to sing the National Anthem.”
You can read more translations at the link.
After reading all the various articles about the debate I still do not understand why Lee Jung-hee was included in this debate when she is not even polling 1% of the vote? Is she just there to represent North Korea as part of the debates?
As far as Moon Jae-in he seems to be a more polished Roh Moo-hyun the more I listen to him. Here is a statement he made about North Korea that I just find ridiculous:
Frontrunner Park was conservative on North Korea, saying that “trust building” between the Koreas was needed. She said there were no conditions for talks or humanitarian aid, and that a summit was possible.
Moon said he would follow through with the agreement reached in 2007 after a summit between the two Koreas.
Lee blamed the Lee Myung-bak government for bad relations on the peninsula and said Park shared the blame. [Joong Ang Ilbo]
Really it is Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye’s fault that a North Korean soldier shot a ROK woman walking on the beach in the back? It is also their fault that the North Koreans held a ROK citizen hostage at the Kaesong Industrial Complex? Is it also their fault that North Korea murdered 46 sailors serving on the Cheonan? And finally is it Park and Lee’s fault that the North Korean launched an artillery barrage against Yeonpyeong Island killing two ROK soldiers? So in spite of all these provocations Moon wants to reward the North Koreans?
Anyway it should be interesting to see how the other debates turn out.