Sang Kyung-seok / Poolfoto / AFP via Getty Images
SEOUL – South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party suffered a devastating defeat in Wednesday’s mayoral business, which is widely seen as a time for next year’s presidential race.
President Moon Jae-in’s party lost both by a wide margin in the capital Seoul and the country’s second largest city, Busan, to the Conservative opposition People Power Party (PPP).
In Seoul, the PPP’s Oh Se-hoon won 57.5% of the vote and returned to the office he served between 2006 and 2011. His rival, Park Young-sun, a woman who served as a minister in Moon’s government, took 39, 2% of the votes. In Busan, the conservative Park Heong-joon won 62.7% of the vote against the liberal Kim Young-choons 34.4%.
The ruling party had won all four major elections since 2016, including a landslide in parliamentary votes in April last year. But support for Moon and his party has been eroding since then.
Over the past year, the first praise for Moon’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to growing economic problems, particularly rising house prices. Public anger was exacerbated by a land speculation scandal involving a government agency for housing development that erupted just a month before the by-elections.
Moon said in a statement on Thursday that he “strictly accepts the nation’s disgrace” in the election and promised to tackle critical issues such as economic recovery and eradication of real estate corruption.
However, the president failed to address one of the biggest issues that threatened Wednesday’s polls – gender. The two former mayors of Seoul and Busan, both representing the DP, resigned after female staffers accused them of sexual harassment. Seoul’s former mayor, Park Won-soon, took his own life after the allegations.
The party’s initial reluctance to admit Park’s offenses and protect the prosecutor from those who questioned her motivation apparently extinguished voters. During the campaign period in Seoul, the party’s abuse of allegations of sexual harassment not only drew from the main opposition, but from four female minority party candidates, all at least 15 years younger than DP candidate Park Young-sun, who is 61.
While the four women together won only 1.8% of the total vote, they represent a record number of female candidates in Seoul’s mayoral election – five including Park Young-sun – and the desire to be heard by younger female voters.
Wednesday’s exit polls showed that 15.1% of women aged 18 to 29 voted for candidates outside the two major parties. This figure is uniquely high compared to other demographic groups, all of which gave less than 6% support to independent or smaller party candidates. It also reflects the outbursts of some young women from the DP, who have traditionally had strong support from younger female voters.
But the women’s voices are unlikely to be heard more clearly by any of them the major parties after the election, said Kwon Soo-hyun, director of the civic group Korea Women’s Political Solidarity. She said the DP is more concerned about young male voters who have become increasingly conservative over the past decade. They cast more than 70% of the vote for the opposition on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the PPP’s gender policy does not signal any structural reform other than addressing some minor complaints.
In a victory speech Thursday, Seoul’s new mayor, Oh Se-hoon, promised to make sure the female employee who was the victim of her predecessor’s sexual harassment returns to work immediately.
Kwon said she does not believe “gender equality will be his core value as the new mayor runs the city council,” but added, “I hope he makes sure to keep his promise and remember it should happen. a similar incident. ”