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"I will start an era of happiness for the nation"
December 19, 2012 8:26 AM   Subscribe

In May 16, 1961, Park Chung-hee ended the Second Republic of South Korea by military coup. On December 18, 2012, his daughter, Park Geun-hye, became South Korea's president by democratic election under the Saenuri party against human rights lawyer Moon Jae-in, of the DUP.

Although Park Chung-hee would eventually get shot by his own intelligence director at a banquet, many South Koreans (especially from Yeongnam, where he was born) say that his economic effect on South Korea was not insignificant. He was one of the largest factors in leading to the chaebol megacorporation system and Korea's export-led development.

Park Geun-hye started her political career as an assemblywoman in the National Assembly. She tried for a presidential bid five years ago (presidents are elected every five years for one term) but was defeated in the Saenuri party primaries by Lee Myung-bak five years ago. Somehow, Saenuri remains in power, despite Lee-Myung-bak being "as popular as gout".

Compared to last election, which was a 45%-25% blowout for Lee Myung-Bak, this election was much more of a close thing. Voter turnout was 75.8%.

On North Korea, she remains an advocate on the Sunshine Policy. WaPo says that the issues were not as important as the identity politics, with Park as a "princess" and Moon as "the common man". I'm not quite sure where they got that: Moon was chief of staff of Roh Moo-hyun.

Results were very divided by region (note: Korean link, Google Translate gets pretty bad). Seoul went Moon 52.2%-Park 47.5%. Incheon went Moon 50.6%-Park 49.0%. Gyeonggi province as a whole - with 48% of the Korean population - went Moon 50.9% and Park 48.8%. But Daegu went Park 79.9% to Moon 19.9%, and Gyeongbuk Province, which surrounds it, went 82.1% Park vs. 17.7% Moon. Park also had a fair advantage in Busan (60.3% vs. 39.5%) and Ulsan(59.9% vs. 39.9%). Jeju went for Park 51.8% vs. 47.9%. In other words, Korea is politically just as regionally split as ever.
posted by curuinor (33 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now that I think about it, the election was actually on the 19th.
posted by curuinor at 8:27 AM on December 19, 2012


Hmm. Now that I do some more research, it also seems that Park's opinion on North Korea is somewhat more nuanced. Here's an editorial from the Chosun Times about it.
posted by curuinor at 8:33 AM on December 19, 2012


Yes, 19th. Local TV coverage has depicted the incoming election results by pasting photos of the candidates heads on racing cartoons, breakdancing cartoons, and other goofy representations. I'm not savvy enough to find a way to link to them, but I grabbed a few on my phone today. If you're curious, memail me.
posted by nile_red at 8:34 AM on December 19, 2012


Thanks for this. As someone living in the U.S. it's weird to see basically no coverage of South Korea when it seems like we have such an important economic connection. I had no idea until today that there was even an election, or that a woman might win for the first time.
posted by selfnoise at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2012


Perhaps worth noting that in the early days of the Korean War--1950--Rhee, the then-president was a not-nice ruler, but over time, our presence had a major impact in establishing a democracy, and now that nation has also a flourishing economy. All too often, our wars merely replace one dictator with another. This is an important exception, for which our own country can be proud.
posted by Postroad at 8:41 AM on December 19, 2012


Screencaps of SBS reporting of incoming election results
posted by needled at 8:42 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


There were two female candidates, but Lee Jung-Hee bowed out this week. She gave at least one intense debate performance*, but was not generally popular.

*memes of which have been curated here.
posted by nile_red at 8:49 AM on December 19, 2012


Rhee, the then-president was a not-nice ruler, but over time, our presence had a major impact in establishing a democracy, and now that nation has also a flourishing economy. All too often, our wars merely replace one dictator with another. This is an important exception, for which our own country can be proud.

Um... apart from those repeated military dictatorships. South Korea has blown through more republics than France and they started 150 or so years later.
posted by hoyland at 8:53 AM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Saturday Night Live Korea parodied the candidates using Teletubbies - Park Geun-hye was represented by the potty-mouthed and violent "Tto" ("Again") in red, and Moon Jae-in by "Moon Je-ni" ("Is this a problem?") in yellow. Lee Jung-Hee was "Gooradori" in purple, often ignored or beat-up, until the first presidential candidate debate happened.

Yeouido Teletubbies recap of first presidential candidates debate (look out for references to Death Note and Berserk mangas, as well as The Usual Suspects movie)
posted by needled at 8:58 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Park: What’s wrong with you, Moon?
Lee: What’s wrong with you, Park?
Park: What’s wrong with you all of a sudden, Lee?
Lee: Whatever, what’s wrong with YOU?
Moon: What’s the matter, both of you?
"

lolwut?
posted by marienbad at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2012


75.8% voter turnout? We should be so lucky here.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 9:45 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the write-up. You'd make a great reporter.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:51 AM on December 19, 2012


Although Park Chung-hee would eventually get shot by his own intelligence director at a banquet, many South Koreans (especially from Yeongnam, where he was born) say that his economic effect on South Korea was not insignificant. He was one of the largest factors in leading to the chaebol megacorporation system and Korea's export-led development.

Funnily enough, most of South Korea's innovation, growth and rise in global prominence has occurred in the 20 years since this bastard was gunned down, and the country became a democracy.

This is like the daughter of Mussolini getting elected in Italy. God, this part of the world is going to hell, and I really do not hope the politicians do not decide to start a war for the hell of it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:59 AM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is like the daughter of Mussolini getting elected in Italy.

Well, she's not ideal, and certainly has the advantage of family, but it's pretty amazing to me that South Korea, a nation with one of the most abysmal rankings for treatment of women in the world, has a woman president. I wonder if this well help crack some of the barriers to women there, if only in some small way.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:08 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is like the daughter of Mussolini getting elected in Italy. God, this part of the world is going to hell, and I really do not hope the politicians do not decide to start a war for the hell of it.

So do you think children should be punished for the sins of their parents? And what do you mean by "this part of the world"? As someone who lives in Japan, you must mean continental East Asia. Or do you mean just Korea? Japanese politicians are also ratcheting up the belligerent rhetoric these days. You could just as easily not hope they do not start a war.
posted by ChuckRamone at 1:09 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's 7:30 in the morning here in Korea on the day after.

This is a massively depressing result, for me at least. It is a manifestation of that archaic desire for royalty that is poisoning democracy in so many places, the same thing that brings us not only George W Bush and Hilary Clinton, but Pierre Trudeau's son, and for that matter, Kim Jong Eun as figures on the political stage.

But of course it's more complicated than just that. I haven't seen any analysis yet, but I'm pretty sure this is going to come down to nostalgia on the part of old people. I'll bet that the youth vote this time was a tiny percentage of the groundswell that brought Noh Moo Hyeon to power 10 years ago.

Park Chung Hee is not, by any means, a universally loathed figure, and for good reason, perhaps. This really isn't like Mussolini's daughter getting elected, although my personal feelings and those of many wouldn't find the comparison inappropriate.

The thing is, there are a lot of people in Park Geun Hye's age bracket here in Korea who remember very clearly the difference her dad Park Chung Hee's military dictatorship made in their lives in a tangible way -- how poor they were and the country was in the mid-60s, and how much more comfortable and affluent they were 20 years later, after he'd been assassinated (in 1979, by the way, so it's more like 35 years ago now) and Chun Doo Hwan had installed himself as the new strongman.

For a lot of people, sadly, the economic growth that Park Chung Hee's dictatorship focussed on, which really did transform the country, and arguably (and trust me, it is argued) would not have happened in anything like the same way otherwise, completely overshadows the iron-fisted repression he brought. They remember more clearly being hungry, and then not, than they do matters of politics that didn't touch them personally. So there's that. Even I am willing to admit that despite the horrors the regime visited on its own people, it also was the engine that turned Korea from an economic basket case into an economic power by the time the mid-80s rolled around, a decade after he died, and Korea has gone from strength to strength in many ways since.

This election is heartening in some ways, in that it will be 6th peaceful transfer of power since then, and democracy is maturing here, and although the old power axes that developed back in the 70s are in many ways disintegrating (and have been since Kim Dae Jung left power 10 years ago), and that is a very good thing, it is also clear that the legacy of those times hasn't disappeared entirely. Which sucks.

Korea should be looking forward, rather than back at this moment.

But there's much that shows that the Old Problems are as entrenched as ever. Regional factionalism makes the red vs blue dynamic in the US look like afternoon tea. The province where I live, in the southwest, went about 90% for Mr Moon, last time I checked before I went to bed. Across the border in Kyeongsangnam-do (literally about 10km from the office where I sit right now), it was exactly the opposite. Parties still divide and reform, and the political landscape is anything but settled.

Of the 7 or 8 candidates, most were single-issue buffoons, and it seems like real viable multi-party politics isn't on the table.

Even Lee Jung-Hee, who made a splash on the first two debates, was running in order to try and make Park Geun Hye lose. She said so, explicitly and repeatedly. She made the point clearer by dropping out of the race just before the last debate, a few days ago, presumably to avoid splitting the vote (a lesson learned back when Roh Tae Woo, a creature of the military, won in 1988, because both Kim Young Sam and Kim Dae Jung refused to stand down, and split the reform vote, and one hammered home by Ahn Chul Soo's withdrawal last month to avoid the same). She wasn't a real candidate, even in her own mind, and only garnered a few percent support at best.

So where do things stand? Well, more of the same, it would seem, which is a lack of real leadership, with a semi-competent (at best) politician in the highest office, which is ironic, given the Korean tendency to want to be led by someone, anyone, who steps up to the plate and makes the right noises.

This could be seen as a victory for women in Korea -- and that was certainly a factor here, and long overdue it is, absolutely. I'm less sanguine about that take than I might be, though -- Ms Park, never married and without children, is (and I apologize, but I'm just channeling here) more the platonic ideal of a woman and (significantly, because if there's one thing Korean folks tend to be it's sentimental, and doubly so about their long-suffering mothers) mother, and is seen, as far as I can tell, in a weird gendered-but-genderless way. I have strong doubts that her regime will do anything that will better the still-reprehensible status of women here, and in fact may do more harm than good, as I am very much without confidence in her ability to govern, and slightly scared by her reported inability to deal with the unexpected, which is not a confidence-inspiring character trait for a South Korean president.

I'm willing to wait and see. Perhaps she'll put together a government that actually does something substantive and lays groundwork for the clear challenges Korea faces over the next few decades, unlike the last couple of administrations (both Lee Myung Bak's and, it saddens me to say, Roh Moo Hyeon's). Maybe there's real leadership ability buried deep in the Yushin Princess's heart. Maybe.

But as with the elections of Steven Harper back in Canada over the last decade (or for that matter, the nearly 50% of Americans who voted for Mitt Romney), I find myself both baffled at people that will vote for someone in ways precisely counter to their own interests, and to the interests of their nation, out of... I don't know. Resentment? Sentimentality? Nostalgia? Lack of faith? Fear of change? Misinformation? Sheer pigheaded stupidity?

I've been saying for at least 10 of the 15+ years I've been here in Korea that the Old Fucks need to die off, that new blood is needed, that the old ways are strangling Korea. Ironically, over that time, I've crept up nearly into the Old Fuck age zone myself, but my tune hasn't changed. There are very few younger politicians here with any good ideas, but there are even fewer old ones.

It's all a bit of a bummer. It turns out, even after all the changes that the last couple of decades have brought, that South Korea and North Korea aren't all that different when it comes to politics.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:19 PM on December 19, 2012 [11 favorites]


So Park Gyeun-Hye, by dint of name recognition and personality, Incheon her way into being the Chosun one?

(Thank you thank you, I'll be here all week!)
posted by the cydonian at 3:29 PM on December 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


By the way, although it is advisable to steer well clear of the comment threads there, the Marmot has a good roundup of some post-mortem election info.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 3:34 PM on December 19, 2012


According to exit polls, Park won 33.7% of the vote from those in their 20s and 33.1% from those in their 30s. But, she won 62.5% of those in their 50s and 72.3% of those in their 60s or older. Note that 38.3% of S. Korean voters are in their 20s and 30s, while 40% are 50 or older.

A map of election results - the small yellow area on top is Seoul, the yellow area in the middle is Daejeon (the provincial capital of South Chungcheong province), and that large yellow swatch is composed of North and South Jeolla provinces. Gwangju, not surprisingly, went 92% for Moon Jae-in. Park was not able to muster this level of support even in her hometown and longtime political base of Daegu, getting 80% of the vote there.

Somebody compared the election map to the Three Kingdoms period in Korea, which ran from 57 AD to 668 AD. Jeolla and Chungcheong on the west are in what used to be Baekje territory, while Gyeongsang used to be Silla territory, which eventually triumphed over the other two to establish Unified Silla. Former presidents and army generals Park Chung-hee, Chun Doo-hwan, and Roh Tae-woo, were all from Gyeongsang.
posted by needled at 4:16 PM on December 19, 2012


Perhaps worth noting that in the early days of the Korean War--1950--Rhee, the then-president was a not-nice ruler, but over time, our presence had a major impact in establishing a democracy, and now that nation has also a flourishing economy.

Which of course had absolutely nothing to do with the decision to go to war there. You Americans, taking credit for a democracy that took places decades after you blew the country to crap, you make me lol.
posted by smoke at 4:21 PM on December 19, 2012 [5 favorites]


Also, looking at my, er... creative romanization of 노무현's name up there, I feel bad about being pedantic about the romanization of ramyeon the other day. Sheesh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:26 PM on December 19, 2012


What does Park Gyeun-Hye and her party actually stand for? All I heard is that she will be little bit nicer to North Korea.

Why was her party so unpopular in Jeolla and Gwangju provinces?
posted by Carius at 4:58 PM on December 19, 2012


Entrenched regionalism growing out of long and fractious political history, cultural tendencies toward group focus, and things like the Gwangju massacre (and encompassing stuff all the way back to the Tonghak rebellions of the 19th century), with a strong helping of 'where did president X come from?'

As with most stuff here, it's complicated.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:09 PM on December 19, 2012


"Why was her party so unpopular in Jeolla and Gwangju provinces?"

The southwest corner of South Korea is still the poorest relative to the rest of the country, and many would say this is by design rather than by accident. As Seoul bloomed, the more pro-democracy parts of the country (including Jeju Island) didn't get the contracts and deals that made some cities comparatively rich.
posted by bardic at 9:59 PM on December 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Aye, exactly. And all that infrastructure development was granted through old boy crony networks, and back in the day when industrialization was in full swing, none of the old boys came from the southwest. Kyunggi-do (where Seoul is) and Kyeongsangnam-do (where Busan is) provided all the generals and presidents for a long time, and got all the (economic) love.

It wasn't until POSCO's second steelworks was built here in Gwangyang in the mid 80s that things started to even out a bit, and Jeolla (Gwangju is just the biggest city in South Jeolla, and a special administration area) got some of the pork too.

Now, sadly the whole Yeosu-Suncheon-Gwangyang triangle is -- though still beautiful -- pretty badly polluted, because the refineries and other chemical plants don't have the same kind of environmental protections POSCO does.

The rest of the province is largely unspoiled, though, and lovely, as are most places outside of the cities, when it comes to it. Still surprising to me, in such a small country with so damned many people.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:22 PM on December 19, 2012


Oh, and it wasn't really as much about parties as it would be in America or Canada, other than the broad leftish rightish polarity -- they break up and reform and cluster and disintegrate and change their names pretty quickly here -- as much as it was about personality and mythos and, I think, a lack of choices for president that were all that inspiring to anybody, or policies that seemed like anything but pandering.

This was kind of a 'yeah, whatever' election for a lot of people, I think, which is simultaneously heartening (democracy, such as it is, is humdrum and uneventful) and a little sad (how nice it would be if there were a candidate who really was inspiring).

It's such a shame that Ahn Cheol Soo dropped out, and Moon soldiered on. Things would be different and a lot more interesting today (and all of my Korean friends would be a lot less bummed out).
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:29 PM on December 19, 2012


To clarify my comment, I was talking about the politicians throughout NE Asia, not just Korea. And that would include to blueblood nincompoop who just took over Japan and the sociopathic mafiosos who run China.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:27 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


So do you think children should be punished for the sins of their parents?

When it comes to politics, yes. The last thing we need is a political class that inherits power because of pedigree. And if you don't think she benefited from her father's networks, name, money, status, well I don't know what to say. The jerks in power in Japan generally speaking come from political lineages, and have never worked an honest day in their life. This makes them arrogant and out of touch.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:37 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This was kind of a 'yeah, whatever' election for a lot of people, I think

The Guardian article linked in the post has, curiously, the opposite interpretation:
The election has captivated South Koreans, who turned out to vote in huge numbers despite below-freezing conditions. The country's election commission put turnout at 75.8%, the highest in 15 years.
But here's the historical turnout in presidential elections in the Sixth Republic, according to (largely uncited) Wikipedia articles:
1987: 89.2%
1992: 81.9%
1997: 80.7%
2002: 70.8%
2007: 62.9%
2012: 75.8%
In this context, I'm having trouble seeing 75.8% turnout as indicating any special enthusiasm.
posted by stebulus at 5:28 AM on December 20, 2012


Blueblood nincompoop lol

I find myself both baffled at people that will vote for someone in ways precisely counter to their own interests, and to the interests of their nation, out of... I don't know. Resentment? Sentimentality? Nostalgia? Lack of faith? Fear of change? Misinformation? Sheer pigheaded stupidity?

I felt the same way about Japan's national and Tokyo governor elections on Sunday. What a depressing week this has been.
posted by misozaki at 7:25 AM on December 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The much higher turnout than the last two is very interesting.

I'd guess that would be a) oldies turning out to vote for Park because it's a way to secretly express their guilty love for her dictator dad (or something of the sort) and b) people turning out to vote against her, for the very same reason of association.

But I think the 'yeah, whatever' factor is still in place -- the idea (and it's an odd one perhaps, to Canadians or Americans) that democracy is no longer the new, shiny, must-be-defended-by-participation thing it was from '87 on through the '90s. Another military coup seems utterly improbable, which is good.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:12 PM on December 20, 2012


curuinor: WaPo says that the issues were not as important as the identity politics, with Park as a "princess" and Moon as "the common man". I'm not quite sure where they got that: Moon was chief of staff of Roh Moo-hyun.
Here in the US, the Republicans routinely paint Democrat candidates as "elitists"... while advancing the Harvard-grad son of a millionaire ex-president and a multimillionaire businessman as their "folksy" alternatives.

I don't find it odd at all that image trumped substance in a mudslinging political race. Nearly half the population is dumber than average.
posted by IAmBroom at 3:38 PM on December 20, 2012


According to experts, a sense of insecurity among voters in their 50s and 60s was a major factor in Park’s victory, reports the Chosun Ilbo.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:12 PM on December 20, 2012


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