SOUTH KOREA: OUTLOOK FOR THE PRESIDENTIAL RACE

Created: 11/20/1992

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Intelligence Memorandum

Office of Last Asian Analysis2

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Southresidential Race

South Korean observers view ruling Democratic Liberal Party candidate Kim Young Sam as the frontrunner in (he presidential election set forecember, but the vole will probably be close. While Kim is striving to convince all fat lions of his party to campaign vigorously for him in iheir home strongholds. IJemocratic Party candidate Kim Dae Jung is working to broaden his support by moderating his leftist image and downplaying his regional identification with his home base in the Oiolla provinces. Tlx third major candidate, former Hyundai chairman Chung Ju Yung, has injected color into the campaign, but even his own party concedes his chances are slim. He could, however, draw votes from Kim Young Sam and give Kim Dae Jung the victory. None of the contenders would be likely lo dramatically change Seoul's domestic or foreign policy, including its policy of seeking gradual reunification with North Korea. The election's greatest impact, therefore, may well be to further the democratization process begun

MMUVIL TOP DATE:

President Roh Tae Woo is limited by South7 democrat* reformsingle five-year lerm. Mc had hoped to pave the way for an easy succession by another ruling party politician, but the upcoming presidential election could well be another close contest in which the winner gainslurality at the polls. The legal campaign period for theecember electionhe candidates in fact have been campaigning for months.

Who Are Ihe Candidates?

South Koreans see the election as the last battle for the presidency between "the two Kinis"-ihe Democratic Liberal Party's Kim Youngnd the Democratic Party's Kim Daes opposition politicians, both struggled against die repiessive regimes of Park Chung Hee and Chun Duo Hwan. and both ran against Roh Tae Woo in7 presidential election. Kim Young Sam subsequently jumped to the ruling camp, merging his party with Roh's inmong several other candidates, the only serious contender is Chung Juhe founder of the Hyundai Business Group. South Korea's second-largest conglomerate. Chung launched his United People's Parly (UPP) in January, and his party was able to gamerercent of the vote in National Assembly elections only two months later (see appendix).

Fair Will Ihe FJeciion be?

Since democratization began inhe Socth Korean public has generally viewed elections as relatively open and fair.

Government intervention in the upcoming election may be lower for several reasons. Foremost are President Roh's actions this faD-resigning from the DLP himself andew prime minister and other cabinet members wilh no party affiliation. Roh declared he and the government would be neutral in order to fairly oversee the

cIcction.[

of RoVs pledge and ihe public outcry over cases uf interference

during the runup to the legislative elections in March, moreover, the leadership of the security services and the military have also announced their neutraliry.n

Roh and government officials probably will not remain entirely above the fray-indeed, the opposition criticized Roh in mid-November for ordering police to abduct hisegislator, and then attempting to dissuade him from bolting the DLP.

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But ihc atmosphere created bynnouncement of neutrality will make it difficult for local and vecwiry officials to intervene on the scale of the past. The public probably has higher expectations about the standard of government behavior during the campaign, and the exposure of any glaring misconduct could have repercussions at the polls.

What Strengths and Weaknesses Mark Each of the Candidates' Campaigns?

The record of recent South Korean elections suggests several factors will be crucial lo each candidate's fortunes at the polls:

Regional loyally. This has been the most important single factor affecting voting patterns in past South Koreanoters have generally backed native sons, expecting them to reward their home regions with economic programs aod other favors. The strong animosity between regions also makes South Koreans reluctant to support candidates from rival areas.

rganization jkJfinancing A< elsewhere, grassroots political

organization is important to get out the vote. Moreover. South Korean politicians typically woo voters with expensive gifts and favors,arge campaign chest critical.

The candidate's reputation. South Korean politics tend to be highly personalised. It is difficult to judge which of the major candidates has the advantage on personality issues, because all three appear tolawed OM Guard rather than the energetic "new face" much of the public had hoped would emerge.

ovince-about one-thud ot Utc

Kim Young Sam enjoys the advantage in terms of regional support, party organization.

orne base in South Kyongsang him in7 presidential

election. Moreover, the DLPs other two factions dominate much of the central part of the country and could give Kim the support of grassroots party organizationsider swath of territory than his competition (see map).

Kim Young Sam must convince party officials, however, to set aside longstanding factional rivalries to campaign vigorously on his behalf. Support for Kim is only lukewarm in some DLP strongholds where other factions predominate, especially the

rea of Taegu City and North Kyongsang Province.

quit the parly rather lhan back him. Voters Inegion, mindful of the benefits they enjoyed under native sons Park Chunghun Doo Hwan. and Roh Tae Wooo surrender powerresident fiom another area.

reluctanti

i

action leaders opposed Kim'sna several have I

Vttf ml

The DLP's local organizations probably arc more'extensive and bencr financed than ihosc of ihc other parties-which should help mobilize votes for Kim Young Sam Kim has been concerned about funding his campaign, nonetheless.

tven without outside pervuvm. 'nufnewinenrcoaDiy see mmfront runner and want to get aboard his

contributors probably hope that, if Kim wins, they will oe ravored wncn the government

awards contracts and other pciks. [

Dae Jung's Democratic Partytrong regional base, but it is smaller than the DLP's. Kim's native Cholla provinces, togetherignificant bloc of voters in Seoul-where many Cholla natives have migrated in recent years-account for aboutercent of the electorate. Kim Dae Jung's main challenge is to overcome the perception thai he is the standard beareregional panyT

To be sure, Kim also draws support from some dissidents and students nationwide, because of his history of opposing authoritarian rule. But their support is eroding as Kim seeks toore moderate image to broaden his appeal with the middle classj

In addition tomaller party organization. Kim Dae Jung is low onwas probably the main reason Kim fought for a

rcccn] Liur.geiM-:Uu th.it irurei'-ed the state subsidy to political campaigns.

Chung Ju Yung's campaign strengths and deficiencies are the inverse of his rivals'.the city of Ulsan. where many Hyundai subsidiaries ve located, Chung lacksbase.ortune some sources estimate5 billion, however, hemoney for his campaign and is apparently using Hyundai executives to stafforganization. Chungurprisingly large number of legislativeMarch,ew months after die party's founding, suggesting he was able to useto quicklyetwork of local organizations. UPP officials arc tryinglhat network and organize groups in new

tvjoreover. the UPP may be able lo expand its grassroots orgamzauon WewnaT'with the help of some former DLP officials who joined the UPP because of their opposition to Kim Young Sam,

Whai Ait Issues?

Issues have been less important to voters in South Korean elections than regional loyalty, school ties, and family connections, but three campaign themes have been prominent this time- the economy, corruption, and the need to end regional antagonism.0

percent of the electorate ismedia polls put ihis

percentage at one-third uf the elcctoraie-and the candidates' handling of these issues may help to sway this group.

The Economy. Polls during the year indicate that economic problems--especiallyousing shortage, and the trade deficit-are the public's overriding concern. Each candidale is portraying himself as the one best qualified to manage the economy. Kim Young Sam has held highly publicized tutorial sessions with economists, probably in part seeking to convince voters that his economic advisers are more experienced than his competitors'. Kim Daene-time businessman, has detailed economic proposals in his speeches and reissued his book. Mass Participatory Economy, to show he is more knowledgeable on complex economic issues than Kim Young Sam. For his part, Chung Ju Yung cites his rags-to-riches business success to portray himself in speeches arid interviews as the wise man needed to cure the nation's economic iDs.

Rhetoric aside, however, the candidates' economic platforms are similar Each pledgesinflation Md provide affordable housing, according lo press reports Tothe candidates also promise to curb excessive government intervention inand to promote loans and other benefits for small businesses, whichKoreans believe have suffered because of preferential government treatment ofor chaebols. Kim Dae Jung is stressing his view that the concentrationpower in the cliaebols works against equitable income distributionsmaller firms, which would be more innovative and respond foster tothe market. Chung Ju Yung advances similar ideas, probably to counteract thethathaebol founder he would coddle big business. Kim Young Sam.pait. has voiced only muted criticism of the chaebols, probably in pari becauseexecutives are ruling-party stalwarts.

Clean Politics. Strong public reaction to several land fraud scandals and incidents of vote-rigging in the March National Assembly elections has pushed the candidates to call for fairer political practices. All three are scoring the comjption-or "money politics"-that has pervaded South Korean political life.

As the candidate of the incumbent party implicated in the scandals, Kim Young Sam has special reason to emphasize the clean politics theme. Kim has made the morality issue the centerpiece of his campaign, pledging to cure what he calls the "Korean disease."

I he appcus io beesponsive chord amongKoreans, who believe their society suffers from an ethical malaise markedand an eroding work ethic.

Regionalism. Each candidate vows lo ease longstanding regional rivalries, which many South Koreans blame for income inequalities and ihe confrontational nature of lhe country's politics. Traditionally, the group in power has tended to shower its regional base with government favors. The two Kims -whose home regions are fierce rivals-pfOfTuie they will promote balanced economic development and appoint Cabinet ministers and other personnel from all regions, according to the press. UPP officials note their party is not strongly associatedarticular province-Chung Ju Yung was bom in North Korca-and so is the group to overcome regionalism, according to press reports. Moreover, they add lhat Ihe UPP was able to gamer voteside variety of areas in the March legislative elections.

What Are Observers Predicting?

Political observers generallylose race but agree Kim Young Sam is the frontrunnerj

areas traditionally dominated by the DLP's factions cast a

im Youngong shot, in our view, given the party's history of factional discord-he could evenajority. The key for both Kims will be to hold on to their traditional regional supporters and to make gains in Seoul

Most observers estimate support for Chung Ju Yung is low-well underercent, according to media polls-and even his own party members generally do not believe hehance of winning. Chung could draw votes from Kim Young Sam, however, especially in Seoul and Nonh Kyongsang Province, where several well-known former DLP leaders have recendy joined his party. |

Kim Dae Jung supporters in the Democratic Party |

splits in ihe usual DLP vote will give him the edge. The DP stalwarts hope thatmember Leehan, who is the New Korea Party candidate, will make afor the presidency in Seoul and erode Kim Young Sam's Support there. Theyfor DLP voter defections to Chung Ju Yung-especially because some formerare now UPP members.reporting suggests, however, that

backing from these officials is unlikely to draw much additional support forSouth Koreans view them with [because they

have connections to the authoritarian regime of former President Chun Doo Hwan.

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What Difference Does Ihe Election Make for South Korea?

This presidential election is likely to be more significant for the process of democratization in South Korea than for the direction of Seoul's policy. Each of the three major candidates is fairly conservative, and their policy differences are relatively minor. They allree market system and gradual steps toward peaceful reunification with North Korea, for example.

But, in several ways, the presidential election-the second since democratic reforms beganwiliilestone. It will strengthen the precedenteaceful transfer of power according to the constitution. And it may also bring about important changes in the nature of the country's leadership and its election practices:

It will mark the first time inears that South Korearesidentilitary background, reinforcing the civilian nature of the government

If the government and security services indeed interfere less than they have in the past, the election will helpigher standard for electoral fairness.

The election may also help loosen the grip of regional animosities by bringing toeader who isative of Tacgu City in North Kyongsang Province, home of Park Chung Hee, Chung Doo Hwan, and Roh Tae Woo.

What Difference Roes the Election Make for (he United States?

Whoever becomes South Korea's next president will almost certainly want to maintain strong relations with Washington, in our view. AU of the major candidates have emphasized die continuing value of political and security ties to the United States. They have all publicly stressed the role of US troops in the South in erdiancing regional stability, for example. Moreover, each candidate has sought meetings with prominent US officials-Kim Dae Jung and Chung Ju Yung visited Washington this fall-seeing such contactsay to boost their own image as statesmen and enhance their prestige with voters. Indeed, since the US presidential election in early November, each candidate has publicly declared himself to be South Korea's "Clinton."

In the economic sphere, all three candidates no doubt realize die need for cooperation with die United States, South Korea's largest export market. They almost certainly recognize the need to gradually open markets in order to avoid trade retaliation and to acquire needed technology. Nonetheless, we believe they share concerns about US efforts to accelerate the pace of market liberalization. Kim Dae Jung in particular has

suggested he would resist liberalization of the agricultural sector-particularly the rice market. While Kim Young Sam occasionally has said the farm sector should become more competitive by international standards, Kim Daeconstituencyignificant percentage of farmers-has more emphatically advocated higher state subsidies.!

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