Korean by-election results, a.k.a. Holy f*ck, Saenuri won in Honam

Despite public anger at the government’s handling of the Sewol disaster and President Park’s approval ratings faltering, the ruling party won—and won big—in yesterday’s by-election, winning in 11 of 15 races, including all but one seat in the greater Seoul area.

This gives the Saenuri Party an absolute majority in the 300-seat National Assembly and leaves a lot of observers—me included—scratching their heads.

The biggest surprise of the day happened in Suncheon/Gokseong, where the Saenuri Party’s Lee Jung-hyun became the first conservative in over two decades to win in Gwangju/Jeollanam-do:

The most unexpected outcome came from a race in Suncheon and Gokseong in South Jeolla, where former senior presidential secretary Lee Jung-hyun of the Saenuri defeated NPAD candidate Suh Gab-won, a loyalist to former President Roh Moo-hyun. Lee’s victory marked the first time for 26 years that a conservative party candidate was elected in South Jeolla, a traditional opposition stronghold, and is seen as a meaningful step in breaking the thick layer of regionalism in Korean politics.

For Lee, three times are a charm:

His victory came after two previous failed attempts in the province. In the 2004 general election, he received a miniscule 1.03% of the vote but surprised political observers in 2012 by garnering 39.7%.

For those keeping score at home, it’s only been 18 years since a conservative won in Jeollabuk-do—Kang Hyun-wook won in one of Gunsan’s electoral districts in 1996.

The National Assembly also welcomes back Na Kyung-won, whose fortunes look better than they did when she lost to Park Won-soon in the Seoul’s mayor race in 2011, and a damn sight better than when she dropped out of the 2012 general election after it turned out her husband—a judge—had asked another judge to indict a netizen on charges of defaming his wife (to be fair to Na, she was the victim of some pretty bad defaming in the Seoul race, albeit at the hands of folk not related to this case).

Yonhap basically says this was an election the Saenuri couldn’t win and the NPAD couldn’t lose… and yet they did. The news agency blames the opposition for opting to run on the Sewol tragedy rather than, say, present any meaningful policy alternatives. If you read Korean, the Chosun Ilbo’s editorial lists pretty much everything the opposition did wrong. It’s not pretty—my personal favorite is the opposition playing up conspiracy theories regarding the corpse of Yoo Byung-eun.

Anyway, the NPAD’s two co-heads, Ahn Cheol-soo and Kim Han-gil, are resigning, as is the party’s entire supreme council.

  • Michael Aronson

    I’m guessing conservatives found a way to encourage voters to come out in droves, whereas liberals were . . . on vacation or something?

  • Guest

    Where are these liberals? Are the younger generations really that apathetic about politics?

  • Michael Aronson

    Sure. They grew up spoiled. Slacktivism is huge these days. The older generation lived through an actual dictatorship.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    Seeing how Saenuri can do as it pleases now, can we expect the NPAD to throw smoke bombs and smash and barricade doors again?

  • Sumo294

    Liberals are crying . . . snuffle, snuffle . . . “conservatives are so mean” . . . cry . . . “they will bomb us and force us to pray in public” . . . it is the end of the world. The sky is falling. Yet–today was like any day of the week. And life goes on–everyone living their magnificent wonderful and amazing “save the world” lives.

  • MikeinGyeonggi

    “The news agency blames the opposition for opting to run on the Sewol
    tragedy rather than, say, present any meaningful policy alternatives.”

    That pretty much sums it up. Voters know that government corruption isn’t partisan. The Sewol tragedy would have occurred under a liberal government just as easily. The ability for a megalomaniac-owned passenger ship to be overloaded, under-balanced, and poorly operated had nothing to do with what political party was in power. The public wants change, not hollow accusations.

  • RElgin

    Unfortunately, I really don’t expect change to come from Saenuri Dang either. They don’t make change; they only run up bills.

    Ahn really lost everything when he joined with the NPAD.

  • bballi bballi paradise

    that and they really have nothing better to do than vote

  • Aja Aja

    The Democrats would have done a lot better if they hadn’t tried so hard to make every issue into a fight against the dictatorship. I think a lot of people got sick down to their stomachs after seeing them trying to use the tragedy and the victims for their own political purpose. People voted for the conservatives because there really was no alternative, not because the Seneuri party were that great.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    Hear hear.

  • Michael Aronson

    So are you satisfied with the amount of censorship the government imposes on its citizens? Or do you wish for more?

  • redwhitedude

    My initial reaction is that conservatives didn’t win in the races in the Honam region but the other side really blew it.

  • redwhitedude

    So this Sewol thing will die down until another disaster about a decade down the road.

  • I AM IN ODE

    never mattered . never will

  • RElgin

    You nailed it.

  • redwhitedude

    The antics of certain elements of the opposition doesn’t help either.

  • redwhitedude

    Yup. Apathy. All I got from the younger crowd about the Mayoral election not long ago was a big yawn.

  • redwhitedude

    Not really. Saenuri will be like a dog chasing its tail while the opposition will probably engage in colorful antics here and there.

    Sounds like America Lite.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    That reminds me of a Lewis Black joke. It goes something like this:

    The Democrats are the party of no ideas and the Republicans are the party of bad ideas. It goes like this. A Republican will say, ‘I’ve got a really bad idea.’ And a Democrat will immediately say, ‘And I can make it even shittier!'”

  • redwhitedude

    The sad thing is that is not confined to the US. They do it to other countries unlike Korea. Just look at the mess with Iraq. A bad idea by republicans made shittier by Obama.

  • wangkon936

    Na Kyung-won is kinda pretty for an ajomma.

  • redwhitedude

    Still cracks me up that her mayoral bid went down the drain several years back because of the amount she spent for facelifts. Not to mention that she had to cancel her reelection bid because of her husband.

  • wangkon936

    “… the amount she spent for facelifts.”

    Link to article? At 47 years of age, she probably doesn’t need an invasive procedure like a facelift. Probably some botox, facial peels, laser treatments, followed up by BB cream should suffice.

    Btw… I am not a dermatologist, but I have a couple of friends who are.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    “……..several years back because of the amount she spent for facelifts…”

    It turned out Park Won-soon (the opposing candidate at the time) used false propaganda against Na Kyung-won.

    http://www.ohmynews.com/NWS_Web/View/at_pg.aspx?CNTN_CD=A0001991092

  • redwhitedude

    http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/2011/10/21/mudslinging-continues-in-seoul-mayor-race/

    The amount she spent rubbed people the wrong way and that is what cost her in the election.

    I take it this is you nominating her for favorite MILF for this blog after Kim Hye su with the plagiarism scandal pretty much disqualified her according to some people on this blog. lol

  • redwhitedude

    It turns out that the electorate were bunch of hypocrites. How did household debt become such a problem while they shunned her for her the amount she spent on her face?

    I prefer Park won-soon over Chung after watching a rather sleep inducing mayoral debate.

  • wangkon936

    “… allegedly spends on facial care. Sisa In, a left-wing magazine, reported that she forks out 100 million won ($87,000) a year on facial treatment.”

    Allegedly. Allegedly. And from a left-wing mag too. So, it’s not really based on any conclusive evidence. Btw… $87k just sounds like way too much. Plastic surgery is fairly cheap in Korea. I might believe 10% of that amount though.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    RWD, as I said above, it was revealed Na spending 1억원 (USD98K) per year on her face turned out to be false propaganda against Na by Park Won-soon.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    The WJS article (written in October 2011) you posted is outdated.

  • wangkon936

    Yep. Sounded like bull shit to me.

  • redwhitedude

    If that is the case how come she couldn’t sue those magazines for defamation?

  • redwhitedude

    Okay got it.

  • redwhitedude
  • wangkon936

    Really? Whoa, maybe you are a bigger fan than I am.

  • bumfromkorea

    Demonstrating, once again, that a campaign strategy based entirely (or near 100%) on negativity will never, ever win.

    That, and that the NPAD was stupid enough to think that the people would blame Saenuri only for Sewol… and not the government/society in general (which would include THEM as well).

  • redwhitedude

    I just stumbled on this. I really don’t care whether she posed or not.

  • redwhitedude

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Korean_presidential_election,_1963

    In the first election that got PCH, Jeolla and Gyongsang ended up voting for Park.

  • wangkon936

    Sometimes customers want to know what you bring to the table rather than have you drone on and on about how crappy your competitor is.

  • Sumo294

    Compared to what? Reading everyone’s email and shifting through everyone’s bank accounts and listening and recording everyone’s telephone calls by Obama’s wonderful and amazing and glorious liberal democracy?

  • flyingsword

    Good

  • Michael Aronson

    America isn’t particularly liberal at the moment, so that’s not a very good comparison, is it?

    Do you know that there is still a law in the books in Korea that a woman is not allowed to smoke if there is an overhanging structure over her head? Meaning it is technically illegal for women to smoke indoors or underneath something.

  • Sumo294

    Could someone do an analysis of why a Saenuri guy won a seat in Jolla? It still does not make sense to me why they would vote for an outsider.

  • Loulou

    Running on the mistakes of the governing party rather than a cohesive platform usually works fine. The mistake that the opposition made this time is assuming that people believe the Sewol tragedy is the direct responsibility of this administration rather than a result of general corruption throughout society and particularly the ruling class. It would’ve happened if Moon Jae-In were president, too. Trying to politicize it just made the NPAD look awful.

  • RElgin

    I can only agree. The leaders of the NPAD should get out of politics since they are so inept. How could they possibly govern a country when they can not manage their own affairs?

    The so-called victory for Saenuri Dang is pathetic affair as well. Their fortune is like that of a burglar that makes a quiet escape, with a small fortune, while two people fight in the street.

    They have won a short reprieve from being judged, only.

  • redwhitedude

    So basically it is an issue of who came across as dumber.

    Not surprising.

  • Sumo294

    Utter utter confusion in the leftie camp. They can’t even agree on when to vote for new leadership–this is quite bad stuff. Poor guys and gals–sniffle, sniffle.

  • http://thekoreanforeigner.blogspot.kr/ John Lee

    That’s an interesting point. I did not know such a law existed. Do you have a link that I can see?

    But as for the law, lawmakers can make all the the decisions they want to their hearts’ content; let’s see if they can enforce them!

    I don’t think this is really about a conservative vs. liberal dichotomy, but rather government interference in the lives of its citizens regardless of which political power is in charge.

  • Sumo294

    Moon Jay-Bird ~!!! is now your leader!!!! Hahahaha . . . woot. Good times-good times indeed for conservatives. You go Jay-Bird !!! Where can I send him my five bucks for his election campaign? Justice Team Members Unite–form of shining new glorious eagle who will bring awesome new changes to the democratic process of new era of wonderful social land reform in order to bring better good feelings to the general people of the workers and general populace of Korean race.

  • redwhitedude

    It’s a matter of figuring out when to do that. In this case the opposition NPAD did it at the wrong time and got burned.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    Proof that regionalism didn’t exist during PCH era (even if it did, it wasn’t as intense and ugly as today….).

    KDJ instigated regionalism among Jeolla-do people for his political needs, and by doing so Korea is not only divided by South and North, but also by East and West.

  • redwhitedude

    Didn’t PCH have a hand in that as well? Look at all the development around the Kyeongju, Pohang and Ulsan area. Compare that to what Jeollado got in the 60s and 70s. Add to that the people that he surrounded himself. How prominent were the Jeolla people then.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    PCH had to concentrate in the right area to get the maximized result (fast). The reason he had to concentrate in GeongSangNAM-Do
    was:

    1. Jollado (having mostly islets, mud, rocks, and the depth of water is shallow) don’t have ports where a large vessel can come alongside a pier.

    2, Busan has the biggest port in Korea and Pohang 2nd biggest. Korea’s economy depends on imports of major materials and exports of manufactures, totalling together more than 80% of GDP. As the biggest port in Korea, the Busan Port handles more than 70% of the
    container traffic. Busan Port also handles millions of tonnes of general cargo. (NB: GeongSangBUK-Do was excluded as there were no merits in this area, so half of the GeongSang Buk Do’s people moved to either GeongSangNam-Do or seoul)

    2. During the war, most of the refugees (from North Korea) settled in Busan and Daegu, hence more manpower (crucial for economic development) than anywhere else at the time.

    3. In the 60s and 70s, there weren’t enough food (people died from hunger everyday). As Jeollado had the best rice fields that have a finer surface soil texture, PCH didn’t want to use Jeollado’s crucial parcels of land for building factories.

  • Sumo294

    Not the whole story–the real boost to GDP was the Seoul to Busan highway that economically threw Korea’s GDP into hyperdrive. The highway connecting Jeolla came much later. Kwangju is doing well economically but they still look in envy upon Ulsan. Busan does trade with Japan–this is evident with the shops that cater to Japanese businessmen–there are deep ties between the two countries. Seoul does big business–that is why everyone is learning English there. Jeolla needs a country to work with–they would be smart to trade as much as possible with China–it would be their meal ticket into prosperity.

  • redwhitedude

    Well Ulsan wouldn’t be the port that it is now without the development of the 60s and 70s. As to Jeollado, what about the city of Gunsan? That’s a port.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    Thanks….I forgot to mention the Seoul to Busan highway…..

  • Sumo294

    JinJoo–how did he win in Jeolla? I am still scratching my head on this one.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    All I know is that PCH got lots of support from both
    GeongSangDo and Jollado.

    The image below shows the result of the National Assembly election in 1973. PCH’s ruling pary (공화당) garnered overwhelming support
    from Jollado.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    As you’ve mentioned, including reclamation works, PCH constructed many industrial complex in Jollado too.

    광주 내연 준공(1962. 11. 15)

    – 제2비료(호남비료) 나주공장 준공(1962. 12. 28, 현 L/G화학 나주공장)

    – 동진강지역종합개발공사 착공(1963. 3.15, 준공 : 1972. 12. 31, 김제 부안)

    – 전남지구 6천여 정보간척공사 기공(1965. 5. 18) (2천만평)

    – 군산화력발전소 기공(1965. 12. 1,준공 : 1968. 10. 31)

    – 광주공업단지 착공(1966. 12. 16)

    – 여수 제2정유공장기공(1967. 2. 20, 준공 : 1969. 6. 3)

    – 전주 제1공업단지기공(1967. 3. 22)

    – 최대의 공군 광주기지 준공(1967. 5.25)

    – 전남 고흥 간척사업 완공(1969. 7.15)

    – 호남 야산개발단지 준공(1969. 10.6)

    – 호남고속도로 착공(1970. 4. 15, 개통 : 1973. 11. 14)

    – 남해고속도로 착공(1972. 1. 10, 개통 : 1973. 11. 14)

    – 군산항 개발 확정(1972. 11. 24)

    – 전주, 이리, 광주, 목포 지방공업개발 장려 지구로 지정(1973. 5. 4)

    – 호남종합화학기지 내 에틸렌계열공장 4개, 프로필렌계열 2개, 기타 7개 총 13개 공장건설계획 확정(1973.8. 2)

    – 이리 수출자유지역 착공(1973. 10.17, 준공 : 1974. 12)

    – 여수화력 2호기 준공(1977.6. 30)

    – 여수 제7비료공장(남해화학) 준공(1977. 8. 4, 기공: 1973. 10)

    – 호남선 복선 준공(1978. 3. 30, 대전~이리)

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    All I know is that PCH got lots of support from both GeongSangDo and Jollado.

    The image below shows the result of the National Assembly election in 1973. PCH’s ruling pary (공화당) garnered overwhelming support
    from Jollado.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    Also – apparently – rural areas of the Jeolla provinces benefited greatly during PCH era …..

    [….]

    “…. And the 1971 presidential election demonstrated that a substantial rural areas of the south western Jeolla provinces. In April 1970 Park responded to these challenges by advocating the Saemaul-Undong, or New Village Movement (NVM), to increase rural productivity and income. The next year, the movement was launched through out the country to upgrade the quality of village life by promoting “diligence, self-help, and cooperation.”

    [….]

    The NVM had far-reaching positive effects in rural life, reinforcing the rising expectations of the rural populace. By the mid-1970s rural family incomes had been brought up to the level of urban family incomes, but soon farm incomes fell behind again. The NVM continued into the 1980s, and whatever the Park government’s motive had been for starting the program, it certainly benefited the rural communities. Still, however, the merits of NVM remain controversial.

    Extracted from “A History of Korea – From Land of the Morning
    Calm to States in Conflict” by Kim Jin-wung.
    (Pages 445 & 446)

    Even if PCH’s dictatorship is heavily criticized (mostly by the leftists), he must’ve benefited the majority of Koreans as his reputation, since the mid-1990s, has greatly risen among the South Korean populace. According to many polls conducted in 2008, Koreans remember him less as the ruthless dictator who retarded Korea’s political development than as the father of the country’s remarkable economic progress. Harsh in his methods and unforgiving of his opponents, he is regarded as the leader who successfully industrialised South Korea.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    “….how did he win in Jeolla? I am still scratching my head on this one….”

    I guess continuing economic growth helped secure popular support for Park’s rule. In any case, most Koreans were touched only indirectly by political repression and actually benefited from what many at the time termed “hothouse” economic development.

  • http://jushinjok.blogspot.com JinJoo

    “As to Jeollado, what about the city of Gunsan? That’s a port….”

    A decision to develop Gunsan Port was made on the 24th November 1972, and the Port was completed in 1979.

  • bill

    He wasn’t an outsider. He was a local.