Vying for Second Place: #Shigak no. 38

By | May 03, 2017 | No Comments

Campaign banners hanging outside Hwagok Station in west Seoul show two of the candidates vying for second place (Ahn Cheol-soo and Hong Joon-pyo), as well as the embattled Yoo Seung-min, whose party haemorrhaged no fewer than 13 lawmakers this week. | Image: Steven Denney/Sino-NK

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.

Vying for Second Place: #Shigak no. 38

With the election less than a week away, is it the beginning of the end for the conservative splinter party, Bareun, and its presidential candidate, Yoo Seung-min? This question is on the slate in this edition of #Shigak. We also break down the latest polling numbers and take a look at statistics from the OECD on employment (and what is might mean for the election).

The final polls before the election — polling is banned in the final week before voting takes place — from Gallup Korea and RealMeter show Moon Jae-in with a comfortable lead over his competitors. Barring any last minute surprises, or news that pollsters have drastically overestimated the front runner’s support, it looks as if the next president of South Korea will be Moon.

The only notable development at this point is Hong Joon-pyo’s rise. The RealMeter poll has the main conservative candidate (representing Liberty Korea Party) in a tie with the center-left candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo. As previously noted, Hong Joon-pyo’s recent rapid gains have come at the expense of Ahn Cheol-soo, whose popularity decreased in the same period that Hong’s increased. Hong’s ceiling, in other words, appears to be the number of points Ahn loses.

With the election imminent, various media outlets (and public opinion polls) have been reporting that conservative Liberal Korea candidate Hong Joon-pyo is catching up to Ahn Cheol-soo. However, according to News1’ analysis, there are some pretty big gaps between the various polls. For example, Korea Gallup’s poll shows Ahn at 19.1% and Hong at 14.9%; KSOI’s poll shows Ahn at 23.0% and Hong at 17.4%; and Korea Research’s poll shows that Ahn is at 23.3% and Hong at 14.4%.

When Hong first launched his campaign, his support was in the single digits. There is no question that he is now on the rise, capitalizing primarily on Ahn Cheol-soo’s decreasing popularity. Prior to the official start of the campaign season, Ahn was viewed as Moon Jae-in’s chief rival and someone who had a chance of supplanting the Minjoo Party candidate as front-runner. If the polls are to be trusted, however, Ahn’s support is now thinning as conservative voters solidify their support behind Hong.

On April 28, Bareun Party lawmaker Lee Eun-jae defected and joined Hong Joon-pyo’s Liberty Korea Party. On May 1, an additional 13 Bareun lawmakers followed suit. Hong also received the endorsement of former National Intelligence Service (NIS) chief Nam Jae-joon when he dropped out of the race. Now, it seems that Hong’s camp is trying to orchestrate an alliance with the two remaining conservative candidates, Cho Won-jin of the splinter Saenuri Party (created out of those implacably opposed to the impeachment of Park Geun-hye) and Yoo Seung-min.

In the aftermath of Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, Bareun Party broke away from the ruling conservative Saenury Party, while Saenuri changed its name, becoming Liberal Korea Party. Since the two parties come from a single antecedent, it is not too surprising that there has been continuous talk of unification. With the 14 Bareun Party defections to date, the party is down to 18 seats in the National Assembly (down from 32). Even if a unified candidacy between Hong and Yoo does not materialize, there likely will be a merger between Liberty Korea Party and Bareun Party in the near future. That being said, not everyone in the former is in favor of taking back those who left, whom they regard — perhaps unsurprisingly — as traitors.

Reporting numbers from OECD employment statistics, The Kyunghyang Shinmun notes that approximately one out of every five Korean workers (approx. 22%) is working more than 60 hours per week. Of the 30 nations of the OECD, only Turkey (23.3%) has a higher average number of hours worked per week. The 2015 OECD’s Better Life Index report on Korea states, “In Korea, the share of employees working very long hours is more than the OECD average of 13%.”

Security-related issues (namely, North Korea policy and THAAD) have been relatively salient through the election period, but labor market and employment issues have been given significant attention as well. Those in their 20s are experiencing uncomfortably high levels of unemployment, while those in their 30s and 40s are dealing with work-life imbalance. We won’t know for sure until the data are available, but one can assume that financial insecurity will benefit liberal candidates at the ballot box.

According to publicly stated positions, the Minjoo Party candidate and probable next president, Moon Jae-in supports raising the minimum wage to 10,000 KRW/hour by 2020 and reducing the maximum number of hours one can legally work from 68 to 52 (this includes 12 hours of overtime). He also vows more stringent regulation of temporary or irregularly employed labor (비정규직). Hong Joon-pyo, the leading conservative candidate, has remained quiet on labor questions, although it can be safely assumed he favors less government regulation of the labor market and more business-friendly policies.