The Race for the Blue House

Despite all that’s been written about it so far, Korea’s presidential election really only just began. Shit got real once Ahn Cheol-soo, the independent left-leaning billionaire software mogul, dropped out of the race in late November. One week later, the official candidates (significantly, leftist Moon Jae-in and right-winger Park Geun-hye) registered to duke it out on December 19.

And so it began. For the next two weeks we, the people, will be subjected to ‘heartfelt’ political ads (scroll down), drive-by televised speeches and the constant battle cry of the ajumma, proudly row-dancing and clutching banners on the street.


Expect the usual Korean political fare and streets louder than usual. Park’s rejected Moon’s request for a live televised debate, which is actually pretty weird, on the grounds that her nationwide tour is too tight. (How else can Moon show off his lofty elitist intellectualism? How else can Park look like an aristocratic old-fashioned hag?)

Read the full thing on Busan Haps, for which I am now effectively a Korean political reporter.

Presidential Primer: Park Geun-hye

Park Geun-hye’s candidacy has both an uphill battle and an unfair advantage. Her advantage is over both Moon Jae-in, the candidate of official the opposition Democratic United Party, and Ahn Cheol-soo, the super-rich software titan. The advantage is the speculation that her two rivals will split the left-wing vote unless one backs down or agree to some form of power sharing in a president/prime minister system. Park, by contrast, has more or less unanimous right-wing support.

It’s tempting for left-leaners to assume that the trickling of the Arab Spring or something would affect Korea, inspiring fury after five years of conservative government. But there just isn’t enough precedent to tell what the country’s natural governing party is—and Korea is, after all, a pretty socially conservative place.

Third and final Haps piece outlining the basics for this winter’s presidential election. Genuinely interesting narratives, unfortunately overflooded by people being instantly bored by the word “politics”. Ah well.

Presidential Primer: Moon Jae-in

Moon Jae-in is way more badass than he looks. He’s the seemingly milquetoast 59-year-old, gray-haired candidate for the Democratic United Party, the current left-wing opposition. His main opponent is Park Geun-hye, a conservative who is—and this is where it gets awesome—the daughter of Korea’s former military dictator-president, Park Chung-hee, who reigned when Moon was arrested as a bright-eyed university law student protesting in Seoul against President Park’s Yushin constitutional revisions in 1972.

“[Park Geun-hye] and I were both born in the year of the dragon but we have lived totally different lives… When I was living [in] poverty she was living the life of a princess in the Blue House. When I was fighting against dictatorship, she was at the heart of it.”

Part 2 of Busan Hapspresidential candidate series. Part 3 coming… probably soon.