VARIOUS: Former aide to ex-President Roh Moo-hyun and former military dictator Park Chung-hee's daughter...
- Title: VARIOUS: Former aide to ex-President Roh Moo-hyun and former military dictator Park Chung-hee's daughter are running neck and neck ahead of South Korea's presidential elections
- Date: 16th December 2012
- Summary: VARIOUS OF CANDIDATE MOON JAE-IN SHOWING TWO FINGERS (INDICATING HIS CANDIDATE NUMBER) WITH SUPPORTERS
- Reuters ID: LVA82MW201CJABRSDBT3HJN0V2S
- Location: Korea, Democratic People's Republic of, Korea, Republic of
- Country: Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
- Duration: 00:00:11
- Aspect Ratio:
- Topics: Politics
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- Story Text: South Korea's December presidential election looks set to turn into a referendum on two of the country's most polarising leaders as the daughter of military dictator Park Chung-hee faces off against a former aide to ex-President Roh Moo-hyun.
Park's authoritarian rule propelled South Korea from poverty to the cusp of developed-nation status and ended when he was assassinated in 1979. The left-wing Roh's single five-year term closed in chaos as economic reforms failed and a policy of engagement with North Korea was wrecked as Pyongyang pushed ahead with a nuclear weapons programme.
Roh committed suicide in 2010 after bribery charges dogged his retirement.
"Past affairs such as the legacy of former President Park Chung-hee have been very important variables in this year's election campaigns and Moon Jae-in said his meeting with former President Roh Moo-hyun was a destiny and he became a candidate to complete what Roh left undone," said professor Kim Hyung-joon at Seoul's Myongji University.
The conservative candidate, Park Geun-hye, 60, who is bidding to become South Korea's first woman president, and left-winger Moon Jae-in, 59, formally registered their candidacies after independent Ahn Cheol-soo dropped out to support Moon. Park had held a small but steady lead over Moon, whose favourite political moniker is "Shadow of Roh".
Initial polls showed Moon had a slight edge over Park as Ahn's supporters rallied behind a candidate who has pledged engagement with North Korea, to renegotiate a free trade agreement with the United States, to increase taxes on the wealthy and tackle the power of big business.
Opinion polls had shown that Park could have easily won the race if the opposition had fielded two candidates and split the opposition vote. Ahn's decision to step aside leaves Moon, a former human rights lawyer as Park's main challenger.
Kim said this election had been influenced by Ahn.
"In one word, this election is influenced by 'Ahn Cheol-soo phenomenon'. It's not a exaggeration to say this election is of Ahn Cheol-soo, by Ahn cheol-soo and for Ahn Cheol-soo. It's a somewhat deformed election," he said.
Polls showed that Ahn, a software mogul and philanthropist, had until recently been rated the candidate more able to beat Park and to galvanise the support of disenchanted young voters.
Experts say people will split between the "pro-growth" generation that supports Park Chung-hee and the "pro-distribution" generation that supports Roh Moo-hyun.
Park Geun-hye, who disappeared from public life after the death of her father and re-emerged as a politician in 1997 when South Korea was plunged into the Asian financial crisis, has made two previous bids to win the conservative candidacy.
Like Moon, Park has promised greater "economic democracy" and better social welfare, although she has stressed that the big family-run businesses that dominate South Korea - the so-called chaebol - are essential to the country's success and its ability to create jobs.
Moon has refused to visit the grave of Park Chung-hee, who put him in prison, and says that his daughter enjoyed a life of luxury in the presidential mansion and cannot understand the difficulties of ordinary people.
Park said she wanted to build a new "trustpolitik" between the two Koreas, which remain technically at war after an armistice ended their 1950-53 conflict.
"Our national security should be firm. North Korea should know if they provoke, they should pay they big price. We can get real peace with strong deterrent power and trustpolitik together," said Park at the first television debate.
Park's main challenger, left winger Moon Jae-in, has pledged unconditional talks with the North and aid.
"We do not need any condition (to hold dialogue with North Korea) as the Saenury Party and Park Geun-hye insisted. (Current) Lee Myung-bak government attached conditions, cut the dialogues, then broke down inter-Korean relations, so the North's nuclear problem has been worsened," said Moon at the television debate.
North Korea launched the rocket on Wednesday (December 12), boosting the credentials of its youthful new leader Kim Jong-un, who took power a year ago, and stepping up the threat the isolated and impoverished state poses to opponents.
The economy has been the main issue in the election campaign and a surprise rocket launch by rival North Korea appeared to have had little impact on voters.
"Supporter rates for the third-party candidates are very low, so this elections is the race between two candidates practically, unlike the other elections in the past. That's why the competition is very close," said Lee Taek-soo, head of REALMETER, a public opinion survey company.
South Korea bans the publication of opinion polls from Thursday (December 13) and with the final public polls, Moon was 1.5-3.5 percentage points behind Park, compared with a gap of up to 7.5 points a week ago.
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- Embargoed:31st December 2012 12:00