Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Korea's Presidential Election - Part V: The Minor Candidates

Are you a Korean voter? Are you tired of the two party system? Want to seek alternatives, and cast your lot with the unheralded?

This series went over the three major candidates (one of whom withdrew,) but technically this presidential election has a total of seven candidates. Just for fun, here is a quick look at the five minor candidates who usually are not in the spotlight.

Lee Jeong-hee

Lee Jeong-hee [이정희]
Party:  Unified Progressive Party
Age:  43
Occupation:  Politician (former attorney)
Out of the five minor candidates, Lee Jeong-hee is the most "major" candidate -- she represents a Unified Progressive Party, a far-left party that holds six seats (out of 300) in the National Assembly. Before entering into politics, Lee was an attorney for Lawyers for a Democratic Society, a non-profit group promoting civil rights. She is a two-term National Assembly woman, having won her first election back in 2008.

Lee (and her party UPP) is primarily known as being a communist sympathizer. She refuses to condemn North Korean regime's three generation succession, and abstained from voting for the Assembly resolution condemning North Korea for shelling Yeonpyeong Island in 2010. Her major campaign promises include cancellation of the free trade agreement between Korea and U.S. and special law compensating laborers who were subjected to mass layoffs.

(More after the jump)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

Park Jong-seon

Park Jong-seon [박종선]
Party:  None
Age:  84
Occupation:  None (former entrepreneur)

At age 84, Park Jong-seon is the oldest candidate in the field. He was the former president for Samhyup Enterprises, and accordingly has the highest reported assets among all presidential candidates (around US $4 million.)

Park's major campaign promises include curbing chaebol's abuses, using more Chinese characters and completely cutting off any communication and exchange with North Korea. As you can tell from this sparse entry, no one is quite sure what the heck he is doing in the field.

Kim So-yeon

Kim So-yeon [김소연] (middle)
Party:  None (loosely affiliated with New Progressive Party)
Age: 42
Occupation:  Labor activist

Kim So-yeon is a long time labor activist. Although she is running as an independent, she is loosely backed by the New Progressive Party, a leftist party that does not hold a seat in the National Assembly. Kim is best known for her efforts to lead the strike in Kiryoong Electronics, which illegally hired part-time workers to replace full-time works (and their benefits.) The strike intermittently lasted six years until the management finally gave into the union's demands. Kim held two hunger strikes in the process, one for 30 days and one for 94 days.

Kim's campaign promises include abolition of mass layoffs and nighttime shifts, nationalization of the financial system, and dissolution of Korea-U.S. alliance.

Kang Ji-won

Kang Ji-won [강지원]
Party:  None
Age:  63
Occupation:  None (former prosecutor)

Kang might be the most interesting person in the field. As a prosecutor, he focused on preventing crimes against youths. In addition to being a prosecutor, Kang worked as a talk show host, actor, fashion model and opera singer. As a candidate, Kang believes in a policy-focused campaign -- as such, he refuses to make the customary rounds of shaking hands and kissing babies in public. Instead, every day Kang holds a "policy talk show" in his office, and uploads the video on Youtube.

Kang's campaign promises include encouraging a million Koreans to relocate to rural areas, mandating half of all presidentially appointed positions be filled with women, and greater governmental focus on assisting small businesses.

Kim Soon-ja

Kim Soon-ja [김순자]
Party:  New Progressive Party
Age: 58
Occupation:  Janitor

You read that correctly. Kim probably has the most compelling story out of the field. Kim, having only finished elementary school, had been a simple housewife most of her life. When her husband passed away, she began working as a janitor for Ulsan University at age 49. In 2007, when the university announced mass layoff of the janitorial staff, Kim organized a union and led a protest. After three months of protest, she was able to save the jobs of the janitorial staff, and was awarded the Human Rights Award by the National Commission of Human Rights. She continued working as a janitor until only days before she ran for a seat in the National Assembly in April 2012.

Kim made a number of labor-friendly campaign promises, such as paid rest year after six years of work, minimum wage for everyone, 35-hour work week, etc.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. There is a logic: the numbers relate to the number of seats that the candidate's party has in the National Assembly. PGH is 1 because NFP has the most number of seats, followed by MJI at 2 because DUP has the second most. Those who have no seat in the Assembly receive a number based on a lottery.

  2. This information are important in order to weigh them. They must be introduced to the voters properly and transparently so that people will have a good knowledge to decide who they want to vote as their next president.


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