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Sim Sang-jung makes giant steps

Posted April. 29, 2017 07:07,   

Updated April. 29, 2017 07:13


“I joined the student activist group when I was madly in love with my boyfriend, and eventually became a labor activist when I could not bear the sympathy after I saw how female workers lived and worked in such deplorable state during my visit to the Guro Industrial Complex,” wrote Justice Party's presidential candidate Sim Sang-jung said in her book “Sim Sang-jung, Idealist or Realist?” As a student majoring history education at Seoul National University, Sim joined a sweatshop at Guro Industrial Complex in 1980 while concealing her high educational background. Back then, she chose her fate to live as a labor activist, as she was spotted as a mastermind inciting the Guro Strike in 1985; the first labor issue covered on the front page story of dailies since the Korean War. For nine years, she lived a life of a most wanted criminal.

Friday’s poll announced by Gallop Korea showed that Sim garnered 7 percent of support, showing an increase of 3 percentage points from a week ago. Indeed, it was Sim who reaped the most out of the TV presidential debate. Thirty percent of poll respondents cited Sim as the most well-spoken candidate after the televised debate, and significantly overwhelmed Minjoo Party candidate Moon Jae-in who received 18 percent. History tells that the highest polling rate earned by a liberal party candidate was 3.9 percent, which the then-Democratic Labor Party runner Kwon Young-gil achieved in the 2002 presidential election. While Shim's initial target was 5 percent to calm down the voices calling for her resignation, recent polling rate may suggest that the liberal party may break the 10-percent level, which they yearned for years.

It also seems relevant that the rising support for Sim is in line with Moon who is enjoying an outstanding first place at 40 percent. Though the two candidates may share similar advocators, liberal voters seem to think that left-wingers will eventually take the office even without voting for Moon. Furthermore, history shows that Sim has built a solid foundation for support after decoupling with the image of a pro-North Korea party after separating with the Unified Progressive Party in 2012.

Meet her in person and you will realize she shows a strong contrast of both feminine and masculine images. Though her appearances are far from a hardline labor activist and more closer to that of a charming common housewife, she speaks in manly voice with logical nuisance. An acquaintance who used to attend the Myungji Girls’ High School in Seoul with Sim told that Sim was also popular among rich middle-aged housewives living in posh Seoul areas such as Gangnam or Mokdong. Sim’s progress can be interpreted as a phenomenon where Korea finally sees liberal parties take root not only in worksites, but also in our daily lives.