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Re: The Korean Wave & Domestic News


That scandal with the doctored photo reminds me of how some American celebrities are accused of "buying" Twitter followers to make it look like they have thousands of more fans than they actually do (on Twitter).
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Nothing really significant from last night's debate it seems in terms of substance or changing the course of the race.

___________________________

Story via Wall Street Journal

2nd Presidential Debate Produces No Meaningful Shift

On the day after the second presidential debate, the watercooler consensus is that the candidates are getting better at this kind of thing.

However, little happened at Monday night’s debate to change the momentum of the race, which is still in favor of conservative Park Geun-hye.

Wednesday is the final day that media are allowed to publish polls before the vote on Dec. 19. Polls can still be taken, but any final swings in voter sentiment won’t be known publicly until Election Day.

At Monday’s debate, the main liberal candidate, Moon Jae-in, challenged Ms. Park more directly than he did at the first such outing last week. But he was still overshadowed by the arch criticism of the far left candidate Lee Jung-hee.

Ms. Lee began the debate not just by criticizing Ms. Park but also roping in the Lee Kun-hee family that controls the Samsung group of companies and the chairman of the Hyundai Motor Group , Chung Mong-koo.

She reached into 1990s history to say that Jay Y. Lee, the son of Samsung chairman Lee Kun-hee and likely next chairman of the country’s biggest business group, got special favors from Samsung when an Internet-related business he had started got into trouble. The generational transfer of power at a South Korea’s conglomerates is problematic on many levels. But, with both the Lee and Chung families having done very well with their businesses in recent years, Ms. Lee would have more credibility if she was current on the performance of the executives she was attacking.

Ms. Park put a pin in Ms. Lee’s attacks after Ms. Lee asked whether Ms. Park knew the country’s minimum wage. Ms. Park responded with both the current minimum wage and the level it would rise to next year, then said, “You come to a debate and ask me questions as if you’re playing a game.”

The debate, which was focused on economic policies, made plain the different approaches that Ms. Park and Mr. Moon have towards the big conglomerates.

Mr. Moon said he would like to dismantle the cross-holdings of shares that allow the founding families to remain in control of the conglomerates, with the aim that the firms “could be loved” by the South Korean people.

Ms. Park said that would be too expensive. “If that money is spent to resolve the circular cross-unit equity investment, no one will benefit from it and the workers for the conglomerates’ subcontractors will have to suffer,” she said.

Of course, many bankers, attorneys, accountants, investment firms and media would benefit from the dozens, if not hundreds, of transactions that would result from breaking the cross-holding structure. Plenty of work to do and jobs would abound from structuring deals that are worth billions of dollars worth. But then, when the candidates throw around their catchphrase “economic democratization,” they’re not talking about the moneyed elite who work in those places.
___________________________
Another angle, story via: Bloomberg/BusinessWeek

Park Clashes With Moon Over South Korea Economy Before Election

South Korea’s main opposition presidential candidate accused front-runner Park Geun Hye of failing to take responsibility for her ruling party’s oversight of an economy hindered by slowing growth and rising inflation.

In the second of three debates before the Dec. 19 election, the Democratic United Party’s Moon Jae In said today the administration of outgoing President Lee Myung Bak had failed to fulfill its economic pledges.

“Everything, including economic growth, balanced regional development, inter-Korean relations, democracy and national security, has fallen apart while household debt and inflation rose,” Moon said in the televised debate in Seoul. Park in turned blamed the “ill-designed policies” of Lee’s predecessor Roh Moo Hyun, whom Moon served under as chief of staff.

While Lee’s popularity has fallen by more than half amid public discontent with growing inflation and a widening income gap, Park has maintained her lead in the polls to govern Asia’s fourth biggest economy. The daughter of former dictator Park Chung Hee is attempting to become South Korea’s first-ever female president.

Today’s debate took place as North Korea extended its time frame for a rocket launch this month. Both Moon and Park have pledged to re-engage with Kim Jong Un’s totalitarian state, rejecting Lee’s isolationist stance, regardless of whether North Korea fires the rocket in defiance of international pressure.

Park’s approval rating was at 50.6 percent while support for Moon stood at 43.8 percent, according to a daily poll published today by Realmeter and JTBC, a cable television affiliate of the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper. The Dec. 8-9 survey of 2,000 people had a 2.2 percentage-point margin of error.

South Korea is unlikely to meet the central bank’s growth estimate of 2.4 percent for this year, Bank of Korea Director Jung Yung Taek told reporters in Seoul on Dec. 6. While there are signs of improvement, with exports rising the most in nine months from a year earlier in November, Jung said the expansion will “not be strong” in the fourth quarter.

___________________________

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Re: The Korean Wave & Domestic News


I guess at this point, we'll just have to wait until the final results of the election to see how this all ends up.
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A week to go until the election. Unique angle of coverage with the article from Washington Post about the candidates.

_____________________________
News story via: Washington Post

S. Korea’s presidential contenders have near-opposite backgrounds

SEOUL — The race to become South Korea’s next president pits two candidates who’ve talked on the campaign trail about center-leaning policies. But they arrived at this middle ground by taking nearly opposite paths, one as near-royalty — the daughter of a former president who seized power with a military coup — and the other as an activist who once was jailed for protesting the strongman’s rule.

Though conservative Park Geun-hye and liberal Moon Jae-in differ in some economic policies, they share similar rhetoric about creating jobs and cracking down on corporate corruption, and they represent a country that is far less divided than usual about its priorities. The debate leading up to the Dec. 19 vote is as much about what the candidates have done as what they say they’ll do once in office.

The race is close: Most polls show Park with a lead of three or four percentage points. Ten percent of voters remain undecided. And Moon still could get a slight bump from the endorsement last Thursday of independent Ahn Cheol-soo, a software entrepreneur who reluctantly dropped out of the race in November to avoid splitting the liberal vote.

Voters’ preferences for the top two candidates break by age. Moon, from the Democratic United Party (DUP), leads significantly among voters in their 20s, 30s and 40s, according to a recent poll from the Asan Institute, a Seoul-based think tank. But for those 50 and older, the sentiment flip-flops toward Park, whose father, Park Chung-hee, took control of the country 51 years ago. In other words, Park has the support of those who remember her father’s 18-year reign but lacks it from those who don’t.

Park Chung-hee remains one of South Korea’s most divisive figures, somebody whose legacy is still being fought over. But older Koreans tend to be sentimental for his reign, remembering it as an economic boomtime and a period of national optimism.

South Koreans widely agree that Park Chung-hee was an autocrat, but conservatives tend to think of him as a relatively benevolent one — and less corrupt than some of his predecessors. He also pulled the strings for South Korea’s remarkable economic take-off by channeling bank loans to big businesses and forcing them to export, a means to become internationally competitive.

But Park is controversial because he drew up a constitution allowing him unlimited six-year terms, won elections with vote-rigging and oversaw violent crackdowns on dissenters, including university students. He was eventually assassinated by an aide in 1979. An earlier North Korea-led assassination attempt — in 1974 — missed Park but killed his wife, opening the door for a mourning Park Geun-hye, at age 22, to become de facto first lady.

Park Geun-hye’s aides say they are sensitive about her connection to her father. They sent a memo to media earlier this year asking that articles not refer to Park Chung-hee as a “dictator.” On the campaign trail, Park has also apologized for some of her father’s actions, including his coup and crackdowns on students.

“These things delayed the political development of the Republic of Korea,” Park said in a heavily publicized remark.

Moon, a former human rights lawyer, was jailed in 1975 for participating in street protests against Park Chung-hee. He was later a chief of staff for former president Roh Moo-hyun, a liberal who committed suicide in 2009 amid allegations of corruption.

Moon has said little recently about his competitor’s family background. In South Korea’s first televised presidential debate last week, he didn’t have to. A third candidate, ultra-liberal Lee Jung-hee, admitted at the outset that her goal was not to win the presidency, but to castigate Park, whom she called the “first lady of the dictatorial era.”

After the debate, even Moon’s campaign spokesman told Korean reporters that Lee had been too aggressive, preventing actual debate about policy.


Last edited by SuperRookie, 12/12/2012, 5:38 pm


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Re: The Korean Wave & Domestic News


This is proving to be a most interesting week in the ROK—an impending election scheduled to occur right after North Korea's successful rocket launch.
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Speaking of that issue... Today's WP story.

__________________________________

News story via: Washington Post


South Korea to soften policy on North Korea after elections despite Pyongyang’s rocket launch


By Associated Press,

SEOUL, South Korea — It is not too early to predict one sure winner of South Korea’s presidential election next week: North Korea. President Lee Myung-bak’s hardline approach to Pyongyang is going away, no matter who replaces him.

The question is: Just how soft will Seoul go?

Not even Pyongyang’s successful launch of a long-range rocket Wednesday has changed the determination of both the liberal and conservative candidates in South Korea to pursue policies of engagement, aid and reconciliation with the North.

This matters because whoever wins the presidential Blue House on Dec. 19 will set the initial tone for new North Korea policy not just in Seoul but in Washington, Beijing and Tokyo. Those countries are undergoing political changes and have been waiting for a new South Korean leader before making any big decisions on North Korea policy.

Washington, especially, is keen to see who will take over when Lee leaves in February. U.S. policy toughened after the embarrassing collapse of an aid-for-nuclear-freeze deal with Pyongyang following a failed April rocket launch attempt by North Korea. However, barring more rocket or nuclear tests from Pyongyang or other acts Washington considers provocative, a new thaw on the Korean Peninsula could eventually provide Barack Obama with a cover to pursue more talks meant to encourage North Korean nuclear disarmament.

The need for more dialogue and aid for Pyongyang is one of the few things the South Korean candidates — conservative Park Geun-hye and liberal Moon Jae-in — agree on.

Many South Koreans are frustrated with Lee’s efforts on North Korea. His policy links large-scale government aid to North Korea making progress on past commitments to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Instead of disarmament progress, though, the last five years have seen nuclear and missile tests — including Wednesday’s rocket launch — deadly skirmishes and all-around simmering nastiness between the rival Koreas.

Park and Lee are members of the same conservative political party, so her comments on greater engagement and aid have been striking. They also stand out because Park is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, South Korea’s late anti-communist dictator.

While Park’s rhetoric on North Korea has hardened after Wednesday’s launch, there’s no plan to change her underlying policy, her aides say: She still envisions aid shipments, talks meant to spur reconciliation and the restart of some large-scale economic initiatives as progress occurs on the nuclear issue. The aid would be goods that can’t be used for military purposes.

Park has also held out the possibility of a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, but only if it’s “an honest dialogue on issues of mutual concern.” She’ll also push for progress on nuclear disarmament, human rights and other sensitive issues and says North Korea will pay the price for any provocations.

Her North Korea policy is seen as thin on specifics, however, and there could be limits to her outreach. Many in Park’s political party and conservative base have strong anti-North Korea feelings that could be an impediment if she pushes ahead with serious talks.

Moon, on the other hand, intends to quickly resume shipments of government-level food aid to North Korea, though details of how much aid would be worked out if he wins, aides say. He also wants an early summit with North Korea’s Kim. His policy isn’t influenced by the latest rocket launch, his aides say.

Moon is a protege of the late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, a champion of the so-called “sunshine policy” of no-strings-attached aid to Pyongyang. Lee replaced Roh in early 2008.

For Moon, aggressive engagement isn’t a reward for North Korean nuclear movement; it’s the means to transforming the relationship so that “North Korea has an economic stake in a more moderate foreign policy and eventually has even an economic stake in denuclearization,” said John Delury, a North Korea analyst at Seoul’s Yonsei University.

Moon’s candidacy has some in Washington worried about the return of the tension and anti-U.S. feelings that marked Roh’s term — that “the ghosts of the anti-Americanism of the South Korean left will rise again,” according to Delury.

The North’s rocket launch was magnified because of its timing. Obama will be inaugurated in January to his second term, Japan and South Korea both have national elections this month, and China has just formed a new leadership. But the test is probably not going to “blunt South Korea’s desire for renewed inter-Korean dialogue as a necessary step toward stabilizing peninsular relations,” Scott Snyder, a Koreas specialist for the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote recently.

The Obama administration has consistently emphasized its solidarity with Seoul, and that rhetoric is unlikely to change, whoever is elected.

A rocket launch could actually “solve any alliance split problems” between Washington and either of the South Korean candidates by forcing a more unified stance, said Victor Cha, a former senior Asia adviser in President George W. Bush’s administration.

Washington could also be willing to give either Park or Moon some leeway in reaching out to North Korea if it leads to movement on nuclear disarmament, the issue the United States cares most about. During a November visit to Myanmar, Obama said a decision by North Korea to give up its nuclear aspirations would result in “an extended hand” from the United States.

“A more flexible policy from Seoul also gives the Obama administration more political cover to try another overture toward the North,” said Ralph Cossa, president of Pacific Forum CSIS, a Hawaii-based think tank.

Much will come down to the way North Korea treats the new South Korean leader. Pyongyang may expect, for instance, Moon to deliver everything his liberal predecessors promised, something seen as impossible in the current political environment. Pyongyang could also dismiss Park’s attempts at engagement, dooming talks before they begin. North Korean media routinely criticize Park’s North Korea policy as insincere and confrontational.

North Korea considers the United States, against which it fought during the 1950-53 Korean War, a major enemy. Seoul, on the other hand, is labeled a puppet of Washington, which has more than 28,000 soldiers stationed in South Korea.

“At the end of the day,” Cossa said, “it will be the North’s willingness, or not, to treat the South as a sovereign equal that will make meaningful dialogue possible, regardless of who is elected.”

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Will South Koreans want a more hardline approach against North Korea with this rocket launch, or a return to the Sunshine Policy? We shall see!
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Interesting take by Wall Street Journal on this week's elections, where economy seems to be the pressing issue, surprising given the recent, neighboring developments.

____________________________
News story via: Wall Street Journal

Korea's Remarkably Unremarkable Election
The change in tone is striking, even if the platforms aren't.

South Koreans head to the polls Wednesday to elect a new president, the country's sixth since democratization. And somewhat surprisingly, it has been a subdued affair. Koreans—and their economic and military partners around the world—can be both encouraged and dismayed about the seeming nonchalance.

This is in some ways a very consequential vote. Economic growth has slowed at home and traditional export markets remain weak. Japan has elected a nationalist Prime Minister with whom Seoul's relations could turn frosty. China's rise and increasing aggression in regional territorial disputes is causing heartburn across Asia. And the erratic Kim Jong Eun regime to the north has launched a satellite, marking new progress in its long-range missile program.

Of all these issues, only the economy has resonated with voters, and in this regard the candidates have been largely disappointing. Both Park Geun-hye of the ruling center-right New Frontier Party and Moon Jae-in of the center-left Democratic United Party promised to crack down on the family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, long at the center of Korea's growth. Neither has offered a credible alternative vision, however.

Proposals to limit cross-shareholdings among chaebol subsidiaries or enforce stricter fair-trade practices (the "economic democratization" that has become a buzzword this year) might be popular, but they won't enable faster growth. Neither will promises for social-welfare spending, which at least have the virtue of being modest enough that Seoul has a hope of being able to afford them (for now).

In this respect, Koreans are lucky that they can still get a lot more mileage out of the policies of the incumbent, Lee Myung-bak, and his predecessor Roh Moo-hyun. The most dramatic, growth-boosting reforms to hit the Korean economy in the next few years will come as a result of the free-trade agreements Mr. Roh signed with the U.S. and Mr. Lee signed with the European Union.

These and other deals Seoul is now pursuing with China, Japan and Southeast Asian nations will open Korea's long-sheltered domestic economy to greater competition in both goods and services. The result will be a more vibrant marketplace that gives more Koreans better access to affordable products and that could create more opportunities for domestic entrepreneurs stifled by the current chaebol-dominated economic model.

As for foreign affairs, the quietude of the campaign is more understandable than at first it appears. North Korea wasn't a key issue, despite last week's missile launch, because Ms. Park and Mr. Moon offer relatively similar proposals. Both favor opening the door to greater aid to the North and would be open to talks with the Kim regime (although their stances on the conditions they would set have changed over time).

The main reason for the similarity—a contrast to previous elections that pitted Sunshine Policy-style unconditional openness against a cut-off-the-aid hard line—is that South Koreans are reaching a broad consensus on how to deal with the North. While kindred feeling leaves voters unwilling to cut off humanitarian aid, they also have grown jaded about the promises Pyongyang has made to secure other economic aid, only to renege later. There may also be a growing recognition that only action by outsiders, chiefly Beijing, will ultimately solve the Kim problem.

So too with other foreign-policy challenges, especially China and Japan. Seoul will have to work with a new leadership in Beijing and the new government in Tokyo on a range of issues, from economics to regional stability to North Korea. Neither capital will necessarily make life easy for Korea.

Meanwhile, although the re-elected Obama Administration in Washington talks a good game about engagement with Asia, that has yet to yield substantive policy changes. No wonder Korean voters have generally taken a wait-and-see approach.
***

Noticeably absent from this campaign is a sense of crisis about Korea's democracy itself—especially since Ms. Park is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, the military strongman who ruled in the 1960s and '70s. In previous cycles, at least one candidate roused passions with warnings that his opponent would return the country to authoritarianism.

Koreans now seem to take it for granted that whoever they elect this week will step down as scheduled in five years, when voters will have another chance. That change in tone is striking, even if the candidates or policy proposals aren't.
____________________________


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Interesting that some believe Park Chung-hee's daughter may revert the country back to dictatorial military rule! It's something that hadn't crossed my mind, but I'm sure some Koreans (perhaps even those who lived under her father's rule) might feel that way.
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And so it begins... results should available tomorrow morning our time.
_______________________
News story via: Yonhap News

(Election) S. Koreans go to the polls to pick next president

SEOUL, Dec. 19 (Yonhap) -- Voting began for South Korea's presidential election early Wednesday, with the outcome of the race between ruling Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye and main opposition rival Moon Jae-in expected to be decided by the slimmest of margins.

   Before the blackout on all nationwide polls last week, Park, the 60-year-old daughter of late former President Park Chung-hee, was slightly ahead of Moon with her lead within the margin of error in most surveys taken.

   Because of the slim lead, the Democratic United Party (DUP) claimed over the weekend that its hopeful effectively caught up with Park and could pull off an upset victory, while Saenuri countered that its contender has maintained her lead.

The country is expected to get the first glimpse of the winner at 6 p.m. when three major broadcasters will announce the results of joint exit polls right after ballot booths close.

   In South Korea, presidential election day is a national holiday.

   A clearer view of the election's outcome should be known within a few hours of the ballot counting process with the winner likely to emerge after 10 p.m. at the earliest, even if the final tally won't be completed until early Thursday.

   The National Election Commission (NEC) said that voter turnout will probably be higher than the 63 percent reached in the 2007 race, when the one candidate had a clear lead over weaker rivals. A turnout of over 70 percent could occur as both the conservatives and liberals are expected to turn out en masse to vote for their candidates.

   An earlier poll announced by the state election watchdog showed close to 80 percent of the 40.4 million eligible voters said they would cast ballots this year. The total number of voters eligible to cast there ballots rose by 2.81 million from the 2007 presidential election.

   This year's race, meanwhile, showed all contenders calling for national unity, economic democracy, welfare and sweeping political and social reforms.

   Park claimed if she is elected the nation's first woman president, every effort will be made to improve the livelihoods of the people and build up the middle class that had been hard hit by weak economic conditions.

   Moon, a former human rights lawyer, has said that only by bringing about a change in government can meaningful political, economic and social reforms take place.

   The NEC, meanwhile, said that besides the Sasenuri and DUP candidates there are four minor candidates running in the election, with one having quit on Sunday. Lee Jung-hee of the left-leaning Unified Progressive Party (UPP) dropped out of the race so as to give Moon a better chance at the polls.

   In addition, before presidential candidates formally registered with the NEC on Nov. 25-26, one time independent hopeful Ahn Cheol-soo quit and declared his support for Moon.

   Election experts added that this year will mark the third time automatic ballot-sorting machine will be used in the presidential election to speed up the counting process.

Last edited by SuperRookie, 12/18/2012, 6:29 pm


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