South Korea's 'dirty' election

Mtoto wa Mkulima

JF-Expert Member
Apr 12, 2007
Duh kumbe haya mambo ni kila mahali tuu yapo? Nilikuwa naangalia BBC jana naona jamaa wanarushiana vichwa wakiwa wamevaa suti na tai sio mchezo. Jamaa wanapanda juu ya meza na kurusha vichwa kama cha Ziddane na Materezi.

By John Sudworth
BBC News, Seoul

The candidates have been campaigning across the country
It has been described as one of the dirtiest elections in recent South Korean history.

At the end of the 2007 presidential campaign, the mud-slinging has turned to violence with the undignified spectacle of a full-blown punch up on the floor of parliament.

And yet, in terms of the contest, it has also been the dullest of campaigns, with almost every commentator viewing the result as a foregone conclusion.

In his small street-side welding shop in Seoul, Park Hong-soo takes off his mask and sums up what many South Korean voters are thinking.

"It is becoming harder and harder to make a living," he tells me. "We need a president who knows how to run the economy."

The current president, the liberal Roh Moo-hyun, can hardly be said to have been an economic disaster.

The world's 12th largest economy has been bubbling along at a growth rate of between 3 and 5% during his presidency.

But many voters are also feeling the wind-chill factor of rising house prices and decreasing job security.

And that is where this campaign's runaway frontrunner comes in.


The Grand National Party's Lee Myung-bak, known as "the bulldozer" from his time as a construction industry executive, has made the economy the central theme in his bid for the Blue House, South Korea's presidential residence.

Lee Myung-bak is someone who is cut from a completely different mould

Prof Chang Dae Ryun

Mr Lee is promising economic reform and a return to the 7% get-rich-quick growth rate of the mid 90s.

And many South Koreans seem to believe he is the man for the job, putting him almost 30 points ahead, according to the latest opinion poll taken on 12 December.

But the conservative candidate is being dogged by questions about his own financial integrity, with allegations that he was involved in a stock market fraud case.

Mr Lee has already been cleared by one investigation.

But now a video has come to light which seems to connect him to a firm at the centre of the stock price manipulation charges.

He had previously denied any link.

Just days before the election, the gloves literally came off, with violent scenes in parliament as Grand National Party MPs tried to physically block their rivals from debating the issue.

Lawmakers scuffled and rolled on the floor, while one who appeared to have been knocked unconscious was carried from the hall on a stretcher.

One man appeared to have been knocked unconscious in the brawl

In the end Mr Lee agreed to allow an investigation into the allegations against him, his MPs abstained, and legislation to appoint an independent counsel was passed.

But even with the possibility of the South Korean president-elect facing a criminal investigation, many voters simply seem to shrug.

"Lee Myung-bak is someone who is cut from a completely different mould," said Prof Chang Dae Ryun from Yonsei University's School of Business.

"He transcends political division in terms of support. He is first and foremost a businessman, and that background leads people to hope that the business environment will be much better during his administration."

'Only one truth'

The candidate himself seems confident that the allegations will have little effect.

"I've got nothing to hide," he told a news conference.

"The result of the independent counsel probe will not change anything... there is only one truth".

So as the bulldozer keeps rolling, his opponents can only ponder their opinion poll deficits.

"Voting for Lee is the same as voting for a lie," his main liberal challenger, Chung Dong-young from the United New Democratic Party said on Monday.

The pressure on Lee Myung-bak will continue beyond the election, with the investigation likely to be completed before the date for the inauguration of the new president, set for 25 February next year.

But few doubt he will win on Wednesday.

Instead, attention has turned to the likely size of his majority as an indication of how easily he will be able to weather the storm.
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