Muddy scandals, thinning hair measures… The Mystery of the Confused “South Korean Presidential Election | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Muddy scandals, thinning hair measures… The Mystery of the Confused “South Korean Presidential Election

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Report by a Japanese Writer Living in Japan

Voting day for the South Korean presidential election, March 9, is approaching. The election campaign is apparently going to be a contest between Lee Jae-myung, former governor of Gyeonggi Province of the innovative ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPJ), and Yoon Seok-yeol, former Prosecutor General of the largest conservative opposition party, the People’s Power.

Both candidates from the two major political parties are competing fiercely in this election campaign. There are scandal revelations and smear battles, “insurance coverage for hair loss treatment” and “expansion of pet playgrounds” are among the pledges, and policies are announced in short videos on YouTubes at ……. In Japan, the question is, “Is this really an election to decide the head of state?” Some people say, “What is the point of having a “good” country if you can’t get a “good” country?

However, because South Koreans directly elect their own president, interest and voter turnout are high; in three of the four presidential elections since 2000, turnout has exceeded 70%.

What will be the outcome of this year’s presidential election? We asked Ms. Mihane Harada, a freelance writer based in Seoul, about simple questions Japanese people have and the reactions of the Korean people.

On the evening of the 2nd, the final televised debate between the major candidates took place. Even though the election campaign is in its final stages, the two major candidates from the ruling and opposition parties apparently still engaged in a war of words over allegations of misconduct against each other (photo: AFLO).

More than foreign policy toward Japan and North Korea…the biggest concern is real estate policy

The presidential election has been in the official campaign period since February 15, and the three scheduled televised debates sponsored by the Election Commission have already all been completed by 9:00 a.m., the day the polls open. In the second round, it seems that the debate was over “measures against the new coronavirus” and “policies toward North Korea,” respectively, but are the public still highly interested in both the coronavirus and the North Korean issue?

As a citizen, I am certainly concerned about the coronavirus. But what about foreign policy toward North Korea and Japan? I think the people are more interested in having something done about their own dissatisfaction with their own lives.

What people are most concerned about right now is the real estate issue. The Moon Jae-in administration’s missteps have caused real estate prices in South Korea to rise dramatically. The average price of an apartment in Seoul is now in the 100 million yen range.

As for Japan, the Real Estate Institute announced in January that the average sales price per newly built condominium unit in the Tokyo metropolitan area in 2021 will be 62.6 million yen. This is still about half the price in Seoul.

I can’t afford it, but when I heard on the news that the price was in the 60 million yen range, I couldn’t help but think it was cheap (laughs). The average price in Seoul is 100 million yen, which is out of reach for the average citizen. The younger generation has given up on houses and cars.

That is why both candidates have made many promises with the younger generation’s votes in mind. For example, Lee Jae-myung has said that he will introduce a basic income system that guarantees a minimum income to all citizens, with an additional amount for those aged 19 to 29. Yoon Seok-yeol touts that he will provide low-cost housing for young people.”

Voters’ party support tends to vary among generations, with those in their 40s and 50s favoring innovation and those in their 60s and older favoring conservatism. Those in their 20s and 30s, known as the “MZ generation,” a combination of “Millennials” and “Gen Z,” are considered to be largely independents with no specific party affiliation.

The votes of those in their 40s and older are seen as virtually unmovable. So it’s a matter of how to capture the 20s and 30s generation who say, ‘I don’t really care which candidate you choose, but I’ll vote for the one that will benefit me. I am sure that the Japanese people will be very happy with the results. It is expected to be a close race, and I think that will be the deciding factor.

Yoon Suk-yeol, a member of the main opposition party. With Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-right opposition party withdrawing his candidacy, the opposition candidates are now unified, and the question is whether a change of government will be realized.

Scandals and allegations abound. Neither side can be supported in the ultimate choice election…

So the pledge that came up was “insurance coverage for hair loss treatment”?

The candidate who put forward the idea was Lee Jae-myung. Claiming that thinning hair is a problem directly related to marriage and employment, and that more than half of those who go for treatment are in their 30s or younger, he made the appeal on his YouTube channel by rephrasing “choose Lee Jae-myung (“choose” and “remove” are the same word in Korean)” as “Lee Jae-myung will plant”.

The impact when heard is so strong that it may have repercussions for those suffering from thinning hair.” However, according to the results of a survey released in January by the Korea Institute of Social Opinion, public opinion among the youth was 39.5% in favor of this pledge and 41.6% opposed. At a time when health insurance finances are running in the red and are collapsing, even if a pledge is made to combat thinning hair, …… I think more people would say, “That’s not the point.”

The pledge is unique enough to have been covered in the news in Japan, but we are not sure if it will be decisive enough to capture the votes of Korea’s young people. ……

I feel that there is no decisive factor that would make voters think, ‘I want this person to be president. The fact that scandals and allegations have erupted one after another against both candidates probably has something to do with it. The TV debates before the official campaign period were dominated by defenses against the allegations.”

The scandals of both candidates have been reported in the Japanese media. As for candidate Lee Jae-myung, there are allegations of illegal donations, gambling problems with his son, suspicions about his wife, an affair with an actress, and relations with a gang. Candidate Yoon Seok-yeol, on the other hand, has also been exposed for a string of gaffes, leadership struggles within his camp, and problems with his wife’s misrepresentation of his background. Together, the two candidates have become a “department store of scandals and allegations.

With so many rumors surrounding them, I have to choose one or the other. There are people who say, “It’s the worst possible choice, and the number of people who will abstain from voting is likely to increase,” and “Voter turnout is likely to be lower than in past presidential elections. The people are going to be faced with an unprecedented ultimate choice.

Lee Jae-myung, a member of the ruling party, aims to win the support of young people by promising “insurance coverage for thinning hair treatment,” “correction of golf course fees,” and “legalization of tattoos,” among others. ……

I don’t know what they’ll do to me if I don’t tell them.”

Nevertheless, a turnout of more than 70% is the norm in South Korea’s presidential elections. The last time current President Moon Jae-in was elected, in 2017, the turnout was about 77%. Incidentally, elections from the time of democratization in 1987 through the 1990s had turnout in the 80% range. This shows the high level of public interest.

In Korea, the voting day for presidential and parliamentary elections is Wednesday, which is a holiday. When you go to vote, a seal is stamped on the back of your hand, and many people post pictures of it on SNS. It’s a scene you don’t see in Japan.

In Japan, there is a tendency to say, “Don’t talk about politics and baseball outside,” but in Korea there is no such taboo. Entertainers use SNS to express their support for political parties and candidates, and the general public also expresses their opinions.

Does this mean that Korean voters have a high awareness of political participation?

I think Japanese people give up first, thinking that nothing will change even if they go to elections. There has been no change of government in the past 10 years, and the people have not united to change anything, so I think they have a feeling of ‘whatever.

In the case of South Korea, we have the experience of winning democratization from the military regime led by Jeon Doo-hwan by the power of the people. I think that is a big reason why people have a sense that they have the power to change politics. The efforts of the filmmakers have revealed the massacres of civilians and false accusations made by the military during the process of democratization, and they are afraid of what they might be subjected to if they keep silent, so they show their will through demonstrations and other means if they find something unacceptable.

This is why Korean people seem to find Japanese people’s awareness and attitude toward politics strange. They ask questions like, “Why is the voter turnout so low? I don’t understand that.'”

After the president leaves office… if he has committed a crime, he deserves to be tried.

It is a fair question. It is perhaps not surprising that the people of South Korea find it puzzling that the prime minister of Japan is allowed to remain completely unaccountable.

I have wondered why so many Korean presidents are arrested or commit suicide after leaving office. On the other hand, in Japan, former Prime Minister Abe, who was the subject of various allegations during his tenure, has been able to get away without being pursued after leaving office. People in Korea say, ‘I don’t understand that at all.

Come to think of it, former President Chung Doo-hwan passed away last November, but there was no state funeral, and the TV news reported plainly that ‘Mr. Chung Doo-hwan has died,’ without adding ‘former president. People who commit crimes are always regarded as bad people, and this is even more so when they are politicians. I feel there is a difference between the Japanese and Koreans in this respect.

What kind of judgment will the people of South Korea, who look hard at politicians, make in this presidential election? We cannot help but check.

Harada Mihane is a freelance writer who has lived in Seoul for 13 years. She writes about Korean culture and tourism information.

  • Interview and text Sayuri Saito Photo Afro

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