A look at South Korean pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Fresh off im­peach­ment, South Korean Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye’s days in of­fice may be num­bered. Her po­ten­tial suc­ces­sors in­clude the out­go­ing sec­re­tary gen­eral of the United Na­tions, an am­bi­tious mayor who has been com­pared to both Don­ald Trump and Bernie San­ders, and the man who con­ceded the pres­i­den­tial race to Park four years ago.

Park was sus­pended as pres­i­dent fol­low­ing a par­lia­men­tary im­peach­ment vote Fri­day. She will be for­mally re­moved from of­fice if six of the Con­sti­tu­tional Court’s nine jus­tices sup­port her im­peach­ment in a re­view that could take up to six months. The chances of the court re­in­stat­ing Park are con­sid­ered low, and if she’s un­seated, the coun­try must hold a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion within 60 days. A look at the con­tenders:

Ban ki-moon

A ca­reer diplo­mat, Ban has been seen as a fu­ture South Korean pres­i­dent ever since the U.N. made him sec­re­tary gen­eral in Oc­to­ber 2006. He could be the best hope for con­ser­va­tives to win back the Blue House - South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial of­fice af­ter Park’s col­lapse com­pli­cated pol­i­tics for her party. Ban will step down as UN chief at the end of the year af­ter two fiveyear terms. Ques­tioned on the mat­ter count­less times, Ban has never of­fi­cially de­clared an am­bi­tion to run for South Korean pres­i­dent. But he has never de­nied in­ter­est ei­ther. In a visit to South Korea in May, Ban told re­porters that he would “think hard about what to do as a cit­i­zen” af­ter he re­turns home on Jan 1. Lo­cal me­dia saw this as a clear hint at a pres­i­den­tial bid.

If he does make a run for the Blue House, Ban could rep­re­sent Park’s ail­ing Saenuri Party, which is likely to re­group soon around anti-Park re­formists. Or he could be the face of a new party cre­ated by de­fec­tors from Saenuri and the lib­eral op­po­si­tion. Ban’s sup­port­ers point to his cred­i­bil­ity as an in­ter­na­tion­ally known and re­spected diplo­mat and say he would show more imag­i­na­tion and skill in deal­ing with nu­clear-armed North Korea than the rigid Park. His de­trac­tors point to his lack of do­mes­tic ex­pe­ri­ence and ar­gue that he did an un­re­mark­able job in a high-pro­file post.

Lee jae-myung

Lee, the out­spo­ken mayor of Seong­nam city and mem­ber of the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Party, en­tered the year as a fringe pres­i­den­tial con­tender. But he has en­joyed a me­te­oric rise in pop­u­lar­ity in re­cent months amid rage over the Park scan­dal. Lee, a fac­tory worker and hu­man rights lawyer be­fore en­ter­ing pol­i­tics, brands him­self as an anti-es­tab­lish­ment fig­ure and has a habit of fir­ing off di­a­tribes on Face­book and Twit­ter. He doesn’t mind com­par­isons to Trump, although he says he would pre­fer to be a “suc­cess­ful Bernie San­ders.”

Lee calls for stronger poli­cies to re­duce the widen­ing gap be­tween rich and poor and help blue-col­lar fam­i­lies. He also en­dorses break­ing up the “chae­bol” - the large, fam­ily-owned con­glom­er­ates that dom­i­nate the coun­try’s econ­omy. They have been long ac­cused of hurt­ing com­pe­ti­tion and breed­ing a cul­ture of cor­rup­tion through bribery of politi­cians for fa­vors. The mes­sage has won him many fans in re­cent weeks. His sup­port­ers por­tray him as a pas­sion­ate re­formist; crit­ics see a dan­ger­ous pop­ulist rid­ing a tide of pub­lic anger. “We have been ruled by a small class of the priv­i­leged ... let’s make with our own hands a demo­cratic repub­lic where ev­ery­body is treated equally,” Lee told a cheer­ing crowd dur­ing one of the mas­sive ral­lies call­ing for the re­moval of Park, who pros­e­cu­tors ac­cuse of col­lud­ing with a con­fi­dante to ex­tort money and fa­vors.

Moon jae-in

While Ban and Lee have been hog­ging head­lines, opin­ion polls show it’s ac­tu­ally Moon, the lib­eral run­ner-up to Park in the 2012 elec­tion, who’s the fa­vorite. A re­cent sur­vey mea­sured Moon’s sup­port at 23.5 per­cent, ahead of Ban’s 18.2 per­cent. The Demo­cratic Party’s pres­i­den­tial pri­maries may be­come a show­down be­tween Moon and Lee, who had 16.6 per­cent sup­port.

Moon, a for­mer hu­man rights lawyer and aide to late lib­eral Pres­i­dent Roh Moo-hyun, pledges to fight in­come in­equal­ity, strengthen so­cial wel­fare sys­tems and push busi­ness re­forms to curb chae­bol ex­cesses and cre­ate a level play­ing field for smaller com­pa­nies. While Moon would be a safe choice, there are questions about whether he can win; in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion four years ago, his 48 per­cent of the vote fell short of Park’s 51.6 per­cent. Con­ser­va­tives over the years have at­tacked Moon over his links with the Roh gov­ern­ment, which pur­sued rap­proche­ment poli­cies with North Korea that led to big trade and cul­tural ex­changes be­tween the ri­vals. Such poli­cies were crit­i­cized af­ter Py­ongyang ex­panded its nu­clear weapons and mis­siles pro­grams; sub­se­quent con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments scrapped the ef­fort. Moon con­tin­ues to ar­gue that Seoul should put di­a­logue over sanc­tions in per­suad­ing Py­ongyang to give up its nu­clear am­bi­tions. — AP

LES CAYES, Haiti: In this file photo, United Na­tions Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon waves to peo­ple whose homes were de­stroyed by Hur­ri­cane Matthew, as he vis­its a school where they have sought shel­ter. — AP

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