Korean Election Day!

Election time here in S. Korea. After much campaigning, Korea has elected Park Geun-Hye as their new president with 51.6% of the vote.


The results of the election + commentary being shown at Dolce, a “western” bar in Dujeong-dong

A quick break-down on the candidates: Park Geun-Hye (박근혜) was nominated by  the Saenuri Party. She studied electrical engineering in university and has received honorary degrees from 4 other universities. Out of the 12 presidential candidates that ran in the 2012 election, she was considered to be one of the most conservative. She has advocated for cutting taxes and reducing regulation, but more recently has begun to focus on welfare. She is the daughter of Park Chung-Hee (박정희), a dictator that ruled Korea from 1962-1979. She is an outspoken atheist, although she has familial roots in Buddhism.

Park, photo by Aljezeera

Moon Jae-In (문재인) was nominated by the Democratic United Party. He was a human and civil rights attorney based out of Busan. He was also a founding member of the progressive South Korean newspaper, The Hankyoreh. During his university years, he organized a student protest against the Yushin Constitution and was expelled and later arrested. He is a Roman Catholic and is considered to be “left of center,” politically.

picture from SCMP

Moon, picture from SCMP

After the election results were announced, one of my friends, Colin, had an interesting conversation with one of his students, which I will relay to you now:

“When asking [his] first grade students about their feelings on Park Geun Hye becoming South Korea’s first female president:

Kate: I like Park Geun Hye.

[Colin]: Why do you like her?

Kate: Because her mom and dad died with gun!

Note, her father, Park Jeong Hui was a brutal dictator who was assassinated by a member of his own security staff after 18 years of ruling authoritatively over Korea, and her mother was assassinated in an attempt by North Korean spies five years earlier.”

As he wrote later, “Apparently, your parents having been assassinated is a desirable trait in a president.”

At any rate, 2012 marked the first election year where “mobile voting” was implemented– and it was very common to see campaigners and organizers parading about in the streets, trying to capture voter appeal.

Campaigning near the mall in downtown Cheonan

Campaigning near the mall in downtown Cheonan


Picture of one of Park’s campaign vehicles, photo taken by Steph Wood

It is now the second presidential/prime minister election that I’ve witnessed in Asia (the first being in Thailand) with two women being elected as the heads of state. It’s pretty incredible that these fairly “conservative” societies (as far as social/gender norms are concerned) are electing women figure-heads. Hopefully this momentum will carry on in other aspects of life and will have an influence on other countries.


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