The presidential election is less than 100 days away, and very exciting times are ahead. Today’s digest is less about what happened, and more about what to watch for:
- Hello, Sunshine! Meet the new North Korea policy, same as the old North Korea policy. Park Geun-hye revealed her proposed North Korea policy in her recent interview with Dong-A Ilbo. Park’s proposed policy involved a significantly softened stance toward North Korea compared to her proposed policy back in 2007, when she ran against Lee Myeong-bak in the primaries. Significantly, Park said: “Humanitarian aid or mutually beneficial business arrangements must continue regardless of the changes in the political environment.” Park was also placed high hopes on meeting with Kim Jong-un.
- Cleaning out the Closet. Park is also reportedly preparing an all-encompassing speech on her stance toward her father’s legacy. This was prompted by the kerfuffle following her recent radio interview, in which she apparently questioned the legitimacy of the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision holding that her father’s administration framed and executed eight of his political opponents, in what is known as the People’s Revolutionary Party incident. She initially refused to apologize for her comments, and sacked the party spokesman who mistakenly issued an apology on Park’s behalf. Park since then expressed “regret.”
- Running Man. The worst kept secret in Korean politics just got revealed a little more. Reportedly, Ahn Cheol-soo’s camp decided internally that he will be running for the president, and began taking steps to make the announcement. Ahn recently visited the May 18 Memorial in Gwangju, acting more like an active progressive politician who is wooing the crucial Jeolla-do vote.
- Running Moon. On the other side of the progressive corner, the juggernaut that is Moon Jae-in is continuing to crush his opponents through the DUP primaries. In the last primarily election in Seoul, Moon hopes to push past the 50% mark, which would allow him to be the outright candidate instead of undergoing another round of final voting, likely against the second place Sohn Hak-gyu. The primaries did help Moon erase the gap between him and Ahn — once a double digit underdog, now Moon is neck-and-neck with Ahn in the polls as the favored progressive candidate.
- Divorce Papers are in . . . It’s official: the alliance between the DUP and the UPP is no more. UPP has now experienced a total implosion, as all of the party’s National Assembly members quit the party, planning to form a new one. Gang Gi-jeong, executive officer of the DUP, said that she regretted that the UPP could not re-invent itself, and that the alliance between DUP and UPP was “effectively finished.”
- . . . and Marriage Proposals are out. As the news spreads that Ahn is close to announcing his candidacy, Moon’s camp is already discussing how to form a unified ticket with Ahn. Prominent SNU law professor Cho Kuk, supporter of Moon, proposed on a recent radio interview that Moon and Ahn should have a sit-down to unify the presidential ticket in a one-shot negotiation, rather than dragging the process out in the public. But of course, who will be at the top of the ticket is very much up for grabs at this point. For all presidential elections, the message battle leading up to Chuseok is crucial, as people tend to solidify their voting choices after discussing politics with their families during the holidays. The next two weeks will be very exciting time to watch Korean politics.