Caveat: peninsular psephological observations

I decided to take a break from documenting my visit to Oregon and my uncle's health crisis to address the elections held this week in South Korea.

As my sister said, off-handedly, just now, "there are no coincidences in politics." Thus, the fact that the Kim-DJT summit in Singapore was held this week, right before the elections, can hardly be imagined but to have been some bit of orchestration on the part of the South Koreans. And the incumbent president Moon Jae-in and his left-leaning 더불어민주당 [deobuleominjudang ~ "together democratic party"] clearly had decided that the blustery leaders' drafty summiteering would benefit them electorally. It did. 

Arguably, Korea experienced a "blue wave" such as some are forecasting for the US elections this Fall. Which is odd not just because Korea isn't in the US, but because this is a kind of Korean mid-term, and as such, just like a US mid-term, you'd expect things to swing the other way. Since Moon had won in 2016, it seemed that things should swing rightward for this election. That didn't happen. The main right-leaning party remains in disarray following the impeachment scandals that led to Moon's election, and Moon is benefiting from domestic fears that Mr T is going to mess things up for South Korea.

So it goes. It's interesting to compare the 2016 electoral map and the 2018 electoral map. You see the "blue wave", barely noticeable and somewhat ambivalent in 2016, engulfing the country this time around. I have the 2016 map in my blog post from that election. And here is this year's, below.


I like electoral maps. They're interesting. Call me an amateur psephological cartographer.

[daily log: walking, 5km]

One Comment

  1. I’ve tried to follow the election closely. A lot goes on that doesn’t end up remembered or reported, which makes it a great experience to be able to observe up close, before the smoke clears and the Wiki writers have their way with what survives as summary for posterity. The street-level campaigning and political banners and demonstrations tell a story that is hard to summarize neatly.
    This time I read as many of the streetside banners as possible and sought out demonstrations, trying to get a feel for what is going on. The demonstrations I saw were, perhaps not by coincidence given the political winds, by the Right. A new small party, the Korean Patriot Party (대한애국당), was particularly active; they present itself pretty well given its limited resources, and turned out pretty sizeable demonstrations given their marginal position. They did not have the resources to challenge the Liberty Korea Party. They also seemed aware that they are now hardcore dissidents within the Korea of Moon Jae-In, which probably energized them. The Korean Patriot Party’s sloganeering was ideological, while Liberty Korea’s Seoul mayoral candidate used exclusively inane slogans and frankly empty-sounding things that seemed unserious, like a promise to reduce traffic congestion (how was unstated) specifically so that you can drink more coffee in the morning, featuring with a big picture of a cup of ice coffee — and another banner I recall promised to put up giant air purifiers around Seoul to reduce the small-particulate dust problem.
    The third principal Seoul mayoral candidate, a plausible winner if political winds were different, was the now-perennial-candidate Ahn Chul-Soo (if Ross Perot had formed a party in 1992 and kept it running through the ’90s with some success, this is Ahn’s effort with what is now called the Bareun Future Party, which seems not likely to survive the year in present form). Ahn didn’t win, of course, but received a similar vote share as he did for president in May 2017, again comparable to the Ross Perot vote share in ’92, all around 20%.
    I actually saw Ahn Chul-Soo on the street corner in Dongdaemun the night before the election. I didn’t know he would be there but was passing by. It was around 11:15 PM. He was speaking at the top of his voice but due to noise laws had no mic or speakers; this would be his last appearance of the campaign because campaigning is banned on election day itself, which technically starts at 12:00 AM. I couldn’t hear much despite being pretty close (he is not a natural orator).
    I like Ahn, and have always sympathized with him since the 2012 campaign. He had a group of about one to two hundred around him, many of whom were just passersby like me as I could tell by some of the adjummas’ giggles, though he also had core supporters who broke out in cheers at times. I was the only foreigner in this crowd. Ahn looked at me directly several times in the few minutes I stuck around, perhaps because I stood out. His security detail took an interest, too (it didn’t help that I had a fairly full-looking backpack), one in the rear of the crowd grinning at me, wondering why I was there.
    I tell Koreans that I, as a foreigner, have no right to support or oppose particular candidates or parties in Korea because I am a foreign guest in Korea, “but” that I can still analyze and observe; just because I say positive things about Ahn or negative things about Moon should be taken in that context. I do believe this, that foreigners should always be careful in any country of “engaging” in domestic politics, me included, and it would be inappropriate to do otherwise. That said, whenever I see a demonstration I nearly always try to go over and see what it is (and tend to hang around somewhat longer than may be advisable). This is just as true in the U.S. and other places I have been. I stuck around a Korea Patriot Party rally I stumbled upon in Shinchon for a goof half hour also on the night before the election. I could say more about that at another time but this comment is very long already.
    The self-referential foreigners-in-politics caveat that I try to make before or during any political commentary with Koreans, is actually not entirely true in this case because, as far as I understand, non-citizen F-visa holders ARE now allowed to vote in local elections, but not for National Assembly or President. This is definitely t rue for local council elections; I am not sure about the Seoul mayoral race. (I am not an F-visa holder but could be, as could you, I think, with relatively minimal effort, based on their points system.) I know a few F-visa foreigners who voted. I saw one woman who seemed to be a SE-Asian interviewed in rudimentary Korean on TV who claimed to have voted. I presume that she is the wife of a Korean; she was with a child in a stroller, I thin, in her few-seconds of air time. Her comment in the clip on the TV news was “It’s confusing because there are so many candidates; but voting is important.”
    One thing you didn’t mention on the results: A large number of vacant National Assembly seats were also up for special election. I believe all or all but one were won by the Democratic Party (더불어민주당); though 더불어민주당 does not have a majority of seats despite these wins, if adding in the other parties of the Left, they do now reach 151 seats, a bare majority of the 300-seat body, which now also undermines Ahn Chul-Soo’s Bareun Party’s former position as decisive third force.
    I believe that the Left has only had a majority of the National Assembly once before, when the RohMooHyun-oriented Uri Party in April 2004 won 151 seats; I am not sure if their majority survived the full four-year term due to party defections; even if it did, this was only a single four-year period in the 70 year history of the Republic of Korea. This newly-minuted, voter-approved, Left-majority status in the national legislature will continue for 22 more months until the general election of April 2020, when the Right may or may not come back. (In related news, it seems post-Park Liberty Korea leader Hong Jun-Pyo, who has been slammed in the North Korean state media near daily since late least year at least, and in their typical histrionic style, has now resigned as party leader following the party’s poor performance in the election).
    According to Brian Myers, now that Moon has won these elections, the next twenty-two months — i.e., before the chance that he will lose at the polls — will see a turbocharged push towards at least a defacto inter-Korean confederation, perhaps even a dejure one (

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