Park Geun-hye Victorious Amidst Generational Deprivation
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 20, 2012
Summary: Such is history. Yesterday South Korea held its 18th presidential election. New Frontier Party candidate Park Geun-hye won. She become the first female president in the history of South Korean constitutional rule. When it comes to women's rights, South Korea has long given the outside world a negative impression. Now however, at the start of the 21st century, it has a woman president. This certainly is a fascinating historical development.
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Such is history. Yesterday South Korea held its 18th presidential election. New Frontier Party candidate Park Geun-hye won. She become the first female president in the history of South Korean constitutional rule. When it comes to women's rights, South Korea has long given the outside world a negative impression. Now however, at the start of the 21st century, it has a woman president. This certainly is a fascinating historical development.
Park Geun-hye has been elected president. She has set several precedents. In addition to being the first woman president, she is the first president to receive over half the votes since the 1987 presidential election. She also received the largest number of votes ever in Korean history. Furthermore, this election is the first time under constitutional rule that conservative over 50 voters outnumbered progressive under 30 voters. The election results show that voter composition has changed completely. The low birth rate and an aging population has reversed the voter composition compared to ten years ago.
Park set another precedent. This is the second time in the past decade that a presidential election has pitted conservatives against progressives, in two camps, in a one-on-one show down. The election involved a record 75% turnout, the largest since 2000.
The most unique precedent is also the the one with the greatest impact. That is the reversal in the composition of voters by age. The reversal was apparent in regional voting patterns during South Korea's last election. It is still a factor. But generational differences and contradictions were increasingly apparent during this election. The turnout was considered high. This favored opposition candidate Moon Jae-in. But the composition of voters was reversed during this election. The turnout rate was affected by an aging population and the declining birthrate. Generational and age differences outweighed regionalism. This election underscored the vertical division of society.
The voter composition reversed itself. Park Geun-hye won the presidency. But she faces issues of generational justice and generational conflict. This was predictable. Park Geun-hye has assumed power in South Korea. She faces a more difficult situation than current president Lee Myung-bak.
According to South Korea's Samsung Institute, South Korea faces external problems. These include the European debt crisis, the U.S. fiscal cliff, and the slowdown in Mainland Chinese growth. More importantly, it faces domesic problems. These include a too high household debt burden, and young people with too low incomes. These problems affect various domestic sectors. Different generations experience different degrees of hardship.
Given the economic situation at home and abroad, South Korea cannot maintain its past growth rate. Given the low growth, the various domestic classes can expect to become equally poor instead of equally rich. Over time, class and generational conflicts will intensify.
Yet Park Geun-hye does not appear to have any concrete policy remedies. That is what is so strange about this particular South Korean presidential election. The candidates failed to offer any concrete political proposals during the election. Only during the last few televised debates did they offer an occasional policy prescription. Park Geun-hye proposed rescuing the middle class, which accounts for 70% of society. She also wants powerful restraints imposed upon the Chaebols, which abuse their power.
But suppose the fiscal picture fails to improve? Large South Korean enterprises such as Samsung remain the main pillar of national strength. How will Park Geun-hye rescue the middle class? If Park Geun-hye hopes to fulfill her promises, she must adopt extraordinary measures. But that could trigger generational and class conflicts. The slightest mistake could have the opposite effect. Park Geun-hye's greatest challenge upon taking office will be to sort out and solve these problems.
Generational and class conflicts have erupted on Taiwan over annuities and other issues. These are the same problems that arose during the South Korean presidential election. Taiwan does not have a major election coming up. But generational and class conflict is becoming increasingly apparent. Taiwan's low birth rate and aging population has been classified as a national security issue. But it will remain difficult to deal with. Suppose the economic situation remains weak? Suppose a solution to this problem is not forthcoming? Sharper confrontation and conflict will be in the offing.
The economy is in a downturn. Yesterday South Korea held its presidential election. This was the last major election of 2012. Review the results of these presidential elections. The conclusion will be obvious. This is an era of uncertainty. Most conservative camps won. Most opposition parties lost. The ruling administrations' biggest challenges are economic. How will they be addressed? How will social harmony be preserved? How will generational conflicts be resolved? These demand thorough examination and appropriate countermeasures.
2012.12.20 02:17 am