There’s No Going Back: #Shigak no. 32

By | April 15, 2017 | No Comments

Favored buzzwords of the five main candidates in the 19th South Korean presidential election. | Image: JTBC YouTube channel

On April 2, Sino-NK began a series of regular analyses looking at the South Korean presidential election through the lens of the Korean-language media, reviving a series that ran from February 2014 to October 2015. “Shigak” (시각), or “perspective” uses Twitter to curate sources on the key determinants of the election outcome. Each issue takes the most important tweets posted by Sino-NK analysts under the #시각 hashtag and augments them with essential annotations and a bite-size dollop of concentrated analysis.

Sino-NK will publish brand new #Shigak analyses three times a week between now and the election on May 9. #Shigak is edited by Steven Denney and Christopher Green. Yongmin Lee is a regular contributor. Back issues can be found on the dedicated page. Importantly, users of Twitter are encouraged to adopt the hashtag and take part in the project.

There’s No Going Back: #Shigak no. 32

by Sino-NK

Unlike the United States, with its interminable election seasons that suck in unconscionable sums of money, South Korean democracy runs on a deliberately restricted timeframe and budget. This edition of #Shigak observes the beginning of official campaigning with the registration of candidates, a moment in the process that foretells the arrival of state campaign subsidies on the 18th. There is also a review of the first presidential debate, and a look at the childcare policies of the various candidates.

On the 15th, the first of two days of registrations for the upcoming 19th presidential election, a total of thirteen people stepped forward to take the challenge. Of the major candidates, Moon Jae-in, Hong Joon-pyo and Shim Sang-jung each registered with the National Election Commission in Gwacheon via their respective party chief secretaries, whereas Ahn Cheol-soo and Yoo Seung-min travelled personally to deliver their registration documents. Thirteen registered candidates is a record for a South Korean presidential poll.

Sino-NK has written about some of the lesser-known candidates (and some of the ostensibly fringe candidates who have big names, such as Kim Jong-in) in previous editions of #Shigak.

On April 13, South Korea’s five major presidential candidates participated in the first presidential debate live on SBS. National security and the economy were the main themes of the debate, and the candidates came out swinging to show that they are best suited for the job. As the clear front-runner, Minjoo candidate Moon Jae-in was the main target of criticism from the other candidates.

At the extreme end of things, Liberal Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo branded Moon a “communist.” Moon also clashed with People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, with Moon trying to portray Ahn as a de facto conservative candidate allied with the Liberal Korea Party. Hong and Bareun Party candidate Yoo Seung-min battled over conservative votes. Overall, there was no clear “winner” or “loser” in the first debate, but the media, even the conservative stalwart Chosun Ilbo, gave good evaluations to Yoo and Justice Party’s Shim Sang-jung for their debate performance and the depth of their answers.

In addition to national security, the economy and environmental concerns, childcare is emerging as an important campaign issue. On April 14, both Moon Jae-in and Ahn Cheol-soo announced their childcare policies. The two do not greatly differ in this area; they both promise better and more accessible day care centres with more children enrolled in public facilities.

Other candidates have announced their childcare policies, too. On the left, Shim Sang-jung wants to make paternity leave mandatory. On the right, Hong Joon-pyo and Yoo Seung-min promise more benefits for parents who raise children. Although a lot of promises are made during an election campaign, South Korea’s low birthrate and aging population are serious enough that the voters are not likely to forget promises in this sector.