January 24, 2007


South Korean race is a liberal-free zone: Judging by the nation's mood and who's leading in the polls, the left's decade-long grip on the presidency may be over (Bruce Wallace, January 24, 2007, LA Times)

A Gallup Korea poll released Monday said the former Seoul mayor [Lee Myung-bak of the opposition Grand National Party] had the backing of half of the decided voters; other polls have his support even higher.

Polls show that Lee's closest challenger is Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a former president and also a member of the conservative Grand National Party, or GNP.

Either way, it is not difficult to predict that the liberal left's decade-long grip on the presidency will end this year. The governing Uri Party is a shambles, crippled by factional fights and wounded by disillusionment with President Roh Moo-hyun, whose approval ratings have dipped below 10% in some polls.

Roh is constitutionally banned from running for another five-year term, but the disarray in the Uri camp is so deep that the party is poised to take an extraordinary step before the next election: It plans to dissolve. The Uri Party's biggest factions say they will give themselves a new name and seek an alliance with other liberal and regional parties.

South Korea's liberals have no credible presidential candidate to challenge Lee or any other GNP candidate. Neither of the Uri Party's two prospective candidates is on the voters' radar. And last week, the leading moderate candidate for president, independent Goh Kun, a former prime minister, withdrew from the race, citing his inability to build momentum.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 24, 2007 7:58 AM
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