Go to contents

April Elections: Where Public Opinion Is Headed

Posted January. 24, 2004 23:15,   


“It’s hard to tell until the lid is open. However, it appears to be a personality contest.”

What Dong-A reporters found during the Lunar New Year holidays, regarding the nation’s psyche concerning the April National Assembly elections, can be summed up as “I don’t know it well.” An already-worse economy, topped by rising unemployment and scandals over political slush funds, has pushed political distrust to its peak where it has created much cynicism. Meanwhile, they remain curious about how the elections, a political transition characterized by the end of the “three Kims’ era,” and the disintegration of the regionally divided political landscape would unfold.

-Southeastern regions. “I will vote for the Grand National Party (GNP) only if it changes. Otherwise, I will abstain,” a GNP official said, summing up what he heard from his friends and relatives when he met with them in his hometown of Daegu. They appear to support the GNP, but the aftershock of the GNP’s two consecutive defeats in the presidential elections is still being felt, he added. “The shock over truckloads of political slush funds is considerable,” he said.

Asked about the elections, Chung, a 38-year-old businessman based in Busan, abruptly burst into anger and replied, “How dare they ask my vote after making the economy what it is now?” The voice of discontent and disappointment was loud in the city. “As we worried, there is strong public disappointment of the GNP,” said Rep. Chung Ui-hwa of the GNP, “Many said they would vote for a candidate, not for a party.” Meanwhile, Lee Kang-du, the chairman of the GNP policy board, said, “Public concerns have been said to center on squabbles between the ruling and opposition parties. When I visited my hometown, more than a few said life has become tough because they elected the wrong person as president.”

-Southwestern regions. A subtle political current was felt in the North and South Cholla provinces and Gwangju. As for the North Cholla province, they pin their hopes on Chung Dong-young, the new Uri Party chairman, rather than President Roh Moo-hyun. Yun Chang-seon, a resident, said, “Public perceptions about President Roh are not good.” He said, “As the Chung tempest began to blow, the Uri Party advanced in urban areas while the Millennium Democratic Party (MDP) gained in rural areas.”

The same current can be felt in Gwangju and the South Cholla province. A Gwangju-native civil servant who wanted to be identified only as “J”, said, “There exists love and hate together for President Roh.” He said, “While priding themselves in making Roh president with the strong support, the people remain confused over his reckless remarks and abandonment of MDP membership.” Lee Pyung-su, the Uri Party’s public relations director, said, “We are in the lead in Gwangju. There was a favorable turn in the South Cholla province as Kim Hong-il, son of former President Kim Dae-jung, resigned from the MDP.” MDP lawmaker Chung Chol-ki said, “The level of support in the region has changed little. However, because of ill-feelings toward President Roh, public opinion of the Uri Party is not good.”

-Chungcheon provinces. “Kim Jong-pil is over the hill, isn’t he?” “However, there is no other party that can fit our taste. Chungcheong should support the United Liberal Democratic Party (ULDP),” they said, referring to Kim, the region’s political patriarch. Kim Hak-won, the ULDP’s floor leader, said, “There was considerable argument whether or not the party can survive. Public opinion has turned sympathetic as Kim Jong-pil said he would retire to a second-tier position.” A former government official muttered, “President Roh should reduce what he says to one-tenth of its level before he talks about his campaign slush funds was one-tenth the value of GNP’s.”

However, there were expectations in the city of Daejeon and Chungcheong provinces for the Uri Party, as the government promised to build an executive capital in the region. Sim, a 41-year-old businessman, said, “The Uri Party is the ruling party, anyway. There are regional issues at stake such as the executive capital. I will vote for the Uri Party.” As the GNP found itself on shaky ground in the North Chungcheong province, the elections there will likely be a three-way competition among the ULDP, the Uri Party, and the GNP.