The race between South Korea’s two main presidential candidates has seen unprecedented ranges of poisonous rhetoric, mudslinging and lawsuits.
How dangerous is it?
“Hitler,” “beast,” and “parasite” are among the choicer insults leveled by each camps. Some are even calling it “The Squid Sport Election,” in reference to Netflix’s megahit survival drama the place individuals are killed in the event that they lose youngsters’s video games.
And the stakes? There’s widespread hypothesis that the loser shall be arrested.
“It is a dreadful presidential election when the shedding contender faces jail. Please survive this dogfight within the mire!” senior opposition politician Hong Joon-pyo wrote on Fb.
Simply days earlier than Wednesday’s election, Lee Jae-myung from the liberal governing Democratic Social gathering and Yoon Suk-yeol from the principle conservative opposition Individuals Energy Social gathering are locked in an especially tight race.
Their unfavorable campaigns are aggravating South Korea’s already extreme political divide at a time when it faces a battered, pandemic-hit economic system, a balancing act over competitors between its important ally, Washington, and its high commerce companion, China, and a raft of threats and weapons exams from rival North Korea.
Opinion surveys present that each candidates have extra critics than supporters.
“Is not our nationwide future too bleak with an disagreeable and bitter presidential election that calls for selecting the lesser of two evils?” the mass-circulation Dong-A Ilbo newspaper stated in an editorial.
Yoon has slammed Lee over his attainable ties to an allegedly corrupt land improvement scandal. Lee has denied any connection, and in flip has tried to hyperlink Yoon to the identical scandal, whereas individually criticizing him for his reported ties to shamanism — an historic, indigenous non secular perception.
There have additionally been assaults on the candidates’ wives, each of whom have been compelled to apologize over separate scandals.
Yoon described Lee’s celebration as “Hitler” and “Mussolini” whereas an affiliate referred to as Lee’s purported aides “parasites.” Lee’s allies referred to as Yoon “a beast,” “dictator” and “an empty can” and derided his spouse’s alleged cosmetic surgery.
Their marketing campaign groups and supporters have filed dozens of lawsuits charging libel and the unfold of false info, amongst different points.
“This yr’s presidential election has been extra overwhelmed by unfavorable campaigning than every other earlier election, and the mutual hatred will not simply die down after the election,” stated Choi Jin, director of the Seoul-based Institute of Presidential Management.
U.S., North Korea points
Among the many fault traces within the voters are South Korean regional rivalries, views on North Korea, a battle between generations, financial inequality and girls’s rights points.
Yoon is extra in style with older voters and people within the southeastern area of Gyeongsang, the place previous conservative and authoritarian leaders got here from. His supporters usually advocate a stronger navy alliance with the U.S. and a more durable line on Pyongyang, and so they credit score previous authoritarian rulers for rapidly creating the economic system after the Korean Warfare.
Lee enjoys better help from youthful individuals and people from Jeolla province, Gyeongsang’s rival area within the southwest. His supporters usually need an equal footing in relations with the U.S. and rapprochement with North Korea whereas being extraordinarily vital of previous authoritarian rulers’ human rights data.
In a notable improvement, many surveys confirmed Yoon has gotten better approval rankings than Lee from voters aged 18 and 29, most of whom have been born after South Korea grew to become a developed nation.
“They did not expertise poverty and dictatorships. … They’re very vital of China and North Korea, and so they have slightly pleasant emotions towards the U.S. and Japan,” stated Park Sung-min, head of Seoul-based MIN Consulting, a political consulting agency.
South Korea’s deep divisions are mirrored within the troubles of the final three leaders. Their supporters say intense corruption investigations after they left workplace have been politically motived by their rivals.
Amid a corruption probe of his household, former liberal President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his dying in 2009, a yr after he left workplace. His successor, the conservative Lee Myung-bak, and Lee’s conservative successor, Park Geun-hye, have been individually convicted of a variety of crimes, together with corruption, and given prolonged jail phrases after Roh’s pal and present President Moon Jae-in took workplace in 2017.
Park was pardoned in December, however Lee continues to be serving a 17-year jail time period.
Moon’s authorities took an enormous hit with a scandal involving Moon’s former justice minister and shut affiliate, Cho Kuk. Cho and his members of the family are alleged to have participated in monetary crimes and the faking of credentials to assist Cho’s daughter enter medical college.
Cho was seen as a reformist and potential liberal presidential hopeful. Moon’s early makes an attempt to maintain Cho in workplace cut up the general public, along with his critics calling for Cho’s resignation and supporters rallying to his facet throughout large avenue protests.
Yoon initially served as Moon’s prosecutor normal and spearheaded investigations of earlier conservative governments. However he ultimately left Moon’s authorities and joined the opposition final yr after battle with Moon’s allies over the Cho case helped him emerge as a possible presidential contender.
“Cho’s case was a watershed in South Korean politics. It made Yoon a presidential candidate, and plenty of of their 20s and 30s switched their help from Moon,” Choi, the institute director, stated.
Throughout a latest TV debate, Yoon and Lee agreed to not launch politically motivated investigations in opposition to the opposite facet in the event that they win. However some query their sincerity.
In a newspaper interview final month, Yoon stated that if elected, his authorities would examine attainable wrongdoing by the Moon authorities and likewise the land improvement scandal that Lee has been allegedly linked to.
When Moon’s authorities was conducting widespread investigations of previous conservative governments, Lee stated they have been essential to eradicate “deep-rooted evils and injustice.”
Cho Jinman, a professor at Seoul’s Duksung Girls’s College, stated a brand new president should train restraint and calm requires political revenge by hard-line supporters.
“We now have an election race like Squid Sport, however it is going to be a brand new president’s accountability to tug us out of it,” he stated.