The first presidential TV debate is in the books, and boy, was it a doozy.
To start, a quick background — the debate was attended by NFP’s Park Geun-hye, DUP’s Moon Jae-in and UPP’s Lee Jeong-hee, the three leading candidates out of the field of seven. The format was to have a debate regarding five topics: presidential leadership, political reform, anti-corruption, North Korea policy and foreign policy. For each segment, the moderator asked a common question, which all three candidates answered. Then each candidate had a head-to-head Q&A session, before moving onto the next topic.
Clearly, the most entertaining portion of the debate was Lee Jeong-hee’s barrage against Park Geun-hye. (The full transcript is available here.) This might go down as the most entertaining presidential debate ever. Ms. Lee’s greatest hits:
– On presidential leadership: Park Geun-hye has the “typical of the imperial leadership of the bygone era. If the First Lady of the Yushin dictatorship goes to the Blue House, she becomes the queen. We need a female president, but we can’t have a queen. Republic of Korea does not need a queen of arrogance and self-righteousness.”
– On political reform: “To speak of the longtime ills of Korean politics — the history of Japanese collaboration, the dictatorial past, refusing to deal with people’s ordinary lives, changing words, all kinds of corruption, “cut-and-run,” Red Scare — who made all these embarrassing, antiquated politics? It’s the New Frontier Party. I question whether Ms. Park and the NFP have the right to discuss the political reform. The essence of political reform in Korea is for the NFP to dissolve, create a political environment in which rational debates may take place, and conduct the politics that wipe the tears off the regular people.”
– On corruption: “Ms. Park spoke of stamping out political corruption. I can hardly believe it, since it comes from someone who maintained her status by receiving salaries derived from stolen goods. Former president Chun Doo-hwan paid Ms. Park KRW 600 million; at the time, you could purchase thirty apartment buildings with that kind of money, and it was the money that Park Chung-hee’s Yushin dictatorship received from chaebols. The Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation, of which Ms. Park was a chair of the board, is stolen goods that former president Park Chung-hee extorted from Kim Ji-tae. . . . NFP has so much corruption, but it cuts off its tail to protect Ms. Park’s poll numbers. Would Ms. Park promise the people to immediately resign from presidency if someone close to her received bribes?”
– On diplomacy: “The foundation of diplomacy is to protect the nation’s sovereignty. Takagi Masao, whose Korean name was Park Chung-hee, became the Japanese army officer by writing a letter of loyalty in blood. After the independence, he came to power through a coup d’etat and rammed through the Korea-Japan Basic Treaty. He wielded the iron fist of the Yushin dictatorship. The apple does not fall far from the tree. Ms. Park and the NFP — the descendants of Japanese collaboration and dictatorship — sold out Korea’s economic sovereignty by ramming through the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. They do not deserve to sing the National Anthem.”
– On why she is running: “Just remember this – I am running to make sure Ms. Park loses.”
It is fair to say that Park Geun-hye did not take these attacks very well, as she was visibly upset. (To her credit, however, Park made a surprise promise that she would return the money that she received from Chun Doo-hwan. Better 30 years late than never, I guess.) Moon Jae-in did not fare all that well from Lee Jeong-hee’s fireworks either, as he simply disappeared into the background.