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Oh Se-Hoon’s Last Stand?

Last week we covered Moon Jae-In, the rising star for the Progressives. Then what about the GNP? Well, it looks like Seoul’s mayor Oh Se-Hoon is making a push. In fact, he has been making a push for the last few months until he ran into a certain watery distraction lately.

The issue:  Oh is facing off the Seoul City Council which is three-quarters Democratic. And the City Council (at the urging of Kwak No-Hyeon, the elected head of Seoul Metropolitan Education Office,) passed a budget last December that included free school lunch for every student in Seoul. Mayor Oh has not been happy about that, as he believes that free lunch for everyone is a populist measure that is not sustainable. He instead made a counter-proposal to gradually provide free lunch for students in the bottom 50% of the income bracket.

What about the budget that already passed? Mayor Oh wants to have a city-wide referendum repealing the budget. He said he would “bet his political life” on this referendum, although in a recent interview he seemed to back away from the implication that he would quit being a mayor if the referendum failed. The referendum is now scheduled to be held on August 24.

Of course, the response from the Progressives is strident. Kwak, the driver of the “free lunch” movement, is reportedly seeking a legal challenge to stop the referendum. And the Internet is replete with jokes about how Oh has money and time for this issue but not for, you know, that crazy rain that ended up killing more than 50 people. (The “Ohseidon” series is my favorite.)

But interestingly, the GNP establishment does not seem to be enthusiastic about this move either. Officially the party is behind the mayor, but the party’s high-ranking members are suspicious about Oh’s motives. Seoul’s referendum rules say that unless more than 1/3 of the citizens voted, the ballot box will not be opened and the votes will not be counted. This particular referendum is in real danger of not meeting that 1/3 line. So certain GNP members think that Oh would rather go out as a martyr for conservative values rather than a failed mayor that could not get around the Dems-dominated City Council. And that does seem to be an accurate analysis — Oh either gets the policy he wants, or gains a symbolic value among conservatives. It is not a bad move on his part.

  • bopshop

    I almost never comment here as I don’t have the time to get pulled into the intellectual maelstrom that is the comment section (reading is enjoyable enough, no need to get pulled into the ring)….but this post forced me to unleash my rusty keyboard.

    Robert, I understand you invite guest posters, that’s great. But I really don’t enjoy reading such a long editorial on a current event. The Korean could have made this post about a paragraph without…

    Less is more….unless it’s banchan

  • Charles Tilly

    Apparent dumbshit can’t get through something that’s 407 words.

  • http://www.konnectmagazine.com Moses – the bulgogi monster

    I agree that a free lunch for students for the whole academic year is not the wisest thing to do. Didn’t make sense that somebody would want to make this kind of policy. But then again, I’m no politician! :)

  • http://adamsawry.wordpress.com Adams-awry

    bopshop’s obviously trolling. But so is Charles Tilly. Same person?

  • leguwan

    There’s no such thing as a free lunch!

  • http://rjkoehler.com Robert Koehler

    Of course, the response from the Progressives is strident. Kwak, the driver of the “free lunch” movement, is reportedly seeking a legal challenge to stop the referendum. And the Internet is replete with jokes about how Oh has money and time for this issue but not for, you know, that crazy rain that ended up killing more than 50 people. (The “Ohseidon” series is my favorite.)

    Of course, it’s also rather amusing to watch the progressive papers trying to argue why the people shouldn’t be given a vote on this. So much for participatory democracy, I guess…

  • Charles Tilly

    Of course, it’s also rather amusing to watch the progressive papers trying to argue why the people shouldn’t be given a vote on this. So much for participatory democracy, I guess…

    Not necessarily all of them.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    As Progressive as I am, I will never argue that the Progressives are sticklers about principled application of fighting techniques — which suits me just fine actually. I am frustrated that the Democrats in America are meek and somehow unable to fight dirty. This would have never happened if Hillary Clinton was the president. She would have decapitated her enemies and there will have been no stupid row about the debt ceiling by now.

    But, for the record, I personally dislike Kwak No-Hyun and his ideas, including this free lunch stuff.

  • baduk

    Oh is so stupid. He should have agreed to give a free lunch. Then, he substitute menu. Give a piece of lettuce or a small kimbob. It will cost only 50 cents per student.

    He does not deserve to run the country. He cannot lie.

    Park GunHye will take the Hannara party down the toilet by running again and again and again and again for the presidency. She will lose, lose, lose and lose.

    She is the greatest curse to the party, that needs to be disappear to the back alley of history. It was born during military dictatorship and had its glory days after Rho MuHyun, the Commie.

    But, by selecting the daughter of the Dictator, the party is doomed.

  • bopshop

    Wasn’t trolling….

    Just a VERY-long time reader who loves this blog and would really hate to see it deteriorate into a bunch of mini/rants/editorials. It’s just too important. Many of us come here to get information…some of you come here for more personal psychological reasons. And I think I speak for the majority (those who don’t have time/need to post ad naseum)

    This post by TheKorean would not have passed my editorial litmus test, that’s all I was saying.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    Complain about the length all you want, but my “editorial” was limited to one parenthetical in the middle and one sentence at the end. The rest is straight news, and the context with which to understand the news.

  • DLBarch

    More than Oh Se-hoon gambit with the free lunch referendum, I’m more curious what kind of institutional or factional support he has within Hannara-dang.

    Being mayor of Seoul obviously is a huge plus when it comes to running for president, but Oh’s status as a GNP alternative to PGH is going to come down to the nitty-gritty of cut-throat, intra-party politics.

    DLB

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    More than Oh Se-hoon gambit with the free lunch referendum, I’m more curious what kind of institutional or factional support he has within Hannara-dang.

    That’s what I was hoping to get at in the post. We will see over the course of the next 3 weeks or so. It will be intriguing.

  • http://www.bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I am frustrated that the Democrats in America are meek and somehow unable to fight dirty.

    I am flabbergasted at this statement. Really? Democrats unable to “fight dirty”?

  • DLBarch

    TK @ 13,

    Agreed. I would also add a couple of addenda. First, timing. PGH is in a tough spot whether to officially announce her presidential run before or after next April’s general election. If she announces before-hand and the GNP loses, it will be spun as a referendum on her candidacy. If she waits, she looks weak and calculating, and may tarnish her image as someone fit to lead the party to victory in December 2012.

    A corollary to this may also be a bit of PGH fatigue, similar to what Lee Hoi-chang experienced as being perceived as a repeatedly unsuccessful presidential candidate.

    Finally, I’d just add that whatever PGH’s regional appeal, as goes Seoul, so goes the nation. And these days, one might even say that as goes Bundang, so does the nation. Given that PGH polls poorly in Seoul and surrounding areas, and polls only lower in Honam, the GNP’s powerful Seoul contingent may conclude that PGH is not their gal after all.

    DLB

  • R. Elgin

    This thread is not too long at all since it is a *summary* of what is going on.

    I also note that when I had posted on the free school lunch earlier, so many trolls jumped up to argue that the post was non-sense since 3,000 won was more than enough for a good lunch despite the concerns duly noted in the press about food prices, that buttressed the concerns of mothers whom I had talked to.

    Mr. Kwak’s school lunch idea was a obvious attempt to undermine the mayor, illegally attach the fixed city budget and an attempt to win a populist vote. I’m not sure but maybe it was still a good idea for the council to sabotage the plans for a new opera house on the Han though since the mayor had pushed that project through and it is an unrealistic and wasteful project, IMHO.

  • http://eng.cfe.org KC

    Mayor Oh is scheduled to speak at a Center for Free Enterprise event on August 9 about the referendum. http://eng.cfe.org/mboard/bbsDetail.asp?cid=mn2007430103030&idx=2014

  • Charles Tilly

    I am frustrated that the Democrats in America are meek and somehow unable to fight dirty. This would have never happened if Hillary Clinton [were] president. She would have decapitated her enemies and there [would] have been no stupid row [over] the debt ceiling[.]

    Really?

    When it comes to personality, I’ll return to the campaign commitments mentioned above, which many see as driven by personality: Obama emphasized conciliation and cooperation, while Clinton talked about fighting spirit and partisanship. Would that have mattered in the debt limit negotiations? Perhaps, but the effects are uncertain. No question that Clinton would have been wary from the start of any chance for agreement. But how does that actually play out? Perhaps Clinton wouldn’t have had bipartisanship as a goal. But in the end, there was no way to avoid eventually cutting a deal with Republicans over the debt ceiling sometime this year. One could argue that a more partisan approach would have been more successful, but why? How?

    Even if Obama and Clinton would have had the exact same constraints, goals, and incentives, the outcome might differ if one simply had better presidential skills than the other. I’m not sure the evidence for Clinton’s bargaining skills is particularly strong, but suppose she was simply better at the poker game aspect of the presidency than Obama. If so, we can suppose she would have driven a somewhat better bargain in this instance, and perhaps in others. But then again, there are other aspects of the presidency that Obama probably trumps Clinton at; it’s hard to imagine that Clinton (and her husband) could have reached this point of her presidency without a hint of scandal that the press took seriously (regardless, of course, of whether there was anything to it). And with scandal usually comes lower approval ratings, and less leverage in Washington.

  • http://askakorean.blogspot.com thekorean

    I also note that when I had posted on the free school lunch earlier, so many trolls jumped up to argue that the post was non-sense since 3,000 won was more than enough for a good lunch despite the concerns duly noted in the press about food prices, that buttressed the concerns of mothers whom I had talked to.

    I feel ya Elgin. A lot of people here are idiots, though a lot of people are not.