The closing days of the South Korean presidential campaign have been dotted by a series of bizarre scandals. According to the last reported poll, Saenuri Party Candidate Park Geun-hye maintained a slight edge over Democratic United Party Candidate Moon Jae-in, (according to South Korean election law, there can be no new polling in the seven days before an election).
However, accusations against Park, ranging from claims that she used her iPad to read a script during a presidential debate to allegations that her campaign has been running illegal operations to discredit Moon on popular websites, threaten to swing crucial votes in Moon’s favour.
However, things really started to heat up when on 12th December, Moon Jae-in’s campaign staff made the accusation that an employee of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) has been running an operation to discredit Moon in online commentary and support Park.
Police and members of Moon’s party went to the employee’s apartment to investigate, to which she responded by promptly locking herself in her room, with a media scrum outside.
Just two days later, the National Election Commission (NEC), the agency which oversees elections, made accusations that Park’s campaign was engaging in illegal campaign activity from an apartment located near the National Assembly. Similar to the NIS employee, the apartment was accused of containing a team of people paid to post online comments supporting Park and criticising Moon.
Both parties reacted by accusing the other of poisoning the tone of the election, and Park denied any illegal campaign activity. The scandals have dominated headlines in recent days and attracted tens of thousands of comments online. Comments from netisens, many of whom are of a younger generation, have been aimed at Park and, in support of Moon.
‘Illegal Comments’ Shock the Campaign, Park ‘Concerned’, Moon ‘Excited’
With just five days left before the presidential elections, great attention is being given to the recently discovered illegal election activities and their effect on the political landscape.
In addition to the discovery that a female employee of the National Intelligence Service had allegedly been engaged in ‘comment fabrication’ in support of Park Geun-hye, the National Election Commission has made accusations against Saenuri Party officials, all of which may affect the outcome of the election in the closing days of the campaign.
Considering the state of affairs up to December 14th, Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye and Democratic United Party Candidate Moon Jae-in have been going through a roller coaster of successes and failures.
Park had up until recently been enjoying a comfortable lead in the polls, but the ‘illegal commenting’ incident has now incited considerable worry within her party and left her scrambling to prepare a response.
On the other hand, Moon, whose support was slowly but surely rising in recent weeks, now looks to receive a substantial boost from voters just before election day.
Saenuri Party Rebuts NEC Accusations, ‘A complex situation…’
The Saenuri Party faces a very sensitive situation, as the National Election Commission has asked the Seoul Southern District Court to investigate whether a Mr. Yoon employed by the Party’s Social Network Service and Media Team is guilty of violations of election law. The accusations come soon after the discovery that a female employee of the NIS was allegedly engaged in ‘comment fabrication’.
While the Saenuri Party immediately responded by saying that ‘we have never directed the operations of such an office’, 800 certificates of appointment bearing Park’s name were uncovered in the office. The NEC also alleges that the Saenuri Party’s Committee for Publication of National Policy purchased the office and made payments to its employees.
In the face of these accusations, the Saenuri Party has countered by asking the Democratic Party to show specific evidence that Park’s party was associated with the female NIS’s employee’s ‘comment fabrication’. Concerns are arising that it will be a long time before the truth ever emerges about these accusations.
In the meantime, Park Geun-hye called a press conference today, announcing an ‘all-out war on this malicious propaganda’. Given that the time of the conference overlapped with the NEC’s announcement accusing Park of illegal activities, the Saenuri Party seems to have been taken by surprise.
During the press conference, Park said ‘They are even using the NEC to falsely accuse me, knowing that they cannot win without the help of such absurd claims,’ and offered the criticism, ‘if the DUP seises the power, they are going to exercise their ‘iron fist,’ under which a mere internet comment that criticises the president would result in confiscation of one’s computer.
However, Park did not mention anything regarding the illegal campaign office run by an Saenuri Party associate.
The Saenuri Party is expressing discomfort, highlighting the fact that the NEC revealed the facts of an ongoing criminal investigation. Lee Jeong-hyun the head of communication for the Saenuri Party said, ‘NEC may investigate the scandal, but they do not have the right to disclose the allegations to the public without full investigation, otherwise it constitutes Publication of Facts of a Suspected Crime.’
The illegal campaign scandal is reminiscent of the illegal campaign phone operation run during the Gangwon by-election on 27th April 2011; the association could naturally lead the Saenuri Party to become agitated.
The then mayoral candidate the GNP [the predecessor of the Saenuri Party] Um Gi-young hired twenty-odd employees to carry out illegal campaign activities by calling voters from a cottage located in the city of Gangneung. Um ended up losing the election, despite the fact that he was five percentage points ahead of his opponent Choi Moon-soon in polling before the incident.
According to an Saenuri Party spokesperson, ‘in the midst of demanding that the opposition cease their negative attacks we have suddenly found ourselves subject to accusations of hypocrisy…We are worried that this will have a negative effect on the election landscape.’
DUP expects a boost from swing voters
Supporters of Moon Jae-in in his furious race against Park Geun-hye have been buoyed by the recent series of incidents.
Moon’s camp estimates that the recent events will be able to flip the election landscape in his favor, as he has been struggling to overcome a small, if persistent, lag behind his opponent.
There is also a worry among Moon’s supporters that Park’s framing of the NIS comment fabrication incident as ‘the imprisonment of a female employee in her own apartment’ could offset any damage to her reputation due to the allegations of criminal activity. As the DUP pondered how to mount a counterattack to Park’s press conference, the new accusations by the NEC of illegal Saenuri Party campaign activity seemed to give Moon the edge he needed.
It can be said that if Park had calmly accepted responsibility for the improprieties of her staff, there would have been less damage to her election chances. Instead, by coming out directly and criticizing Moon and turning the tone of her campaign even more negative, she has eliminated any chance she had of a successful counterattack.
It is out analysis that these incidents will ultimately attract more of the crucial independent votes in the swing PK (Pusan, Kyeongnam) reigons to Moon’s camp.
People’s United Support Leader Yoon Yeo-joon’s endorsement of Moon, along with the recent incidents, look likely to give Moon the boost he needs from swing voters to overcome the relatively unified conservative voting bloc.
With the election just a few days away, weekend rallies at the Gwanghwamun and other last minute efforts are the best ways to increase support from voters in the capital region. The final television debate on the 16th is also seen as an opportunity for Moon to highlight his message of stability and secure his competitiveness.
Public Information Director Woo Sang-ho from Moon’s Election Committee recently said that, ‘rather than flagging, the upward trend in Moon’s support is continuing…with all eyes focused on where the swing votes are going, we believe that moderate voters will favor our candidate.’
This was the first time we have seen Candidate Park Geun-hye actually come forward with negative attacks in a press conference. I think that is an indication of their tense situation. I think Yoon’s endorsement also had a significant effect on our election chances.
Comments from Naver:
They feign innocence and struggle to rebut with negative attacks. Then proclaim all-out war… All the while planning how to demolish the opposition as soon as she becomes president… take them on President Moon Jae-in.
Chicken Geun-hye got pissed off realizing the situation isn’t in favor of her.. Sensible voters will see through it and show their preference on Election Day. Let’s start a new world, thinking of people first and with a new style of politics!!
Park is a lame grandmother, uncommunicative, idiotic, selfish, greedy, manipulative creep! [Note: a long pun based on the fact that all of the words include '통']
There’s no need for slander and insults, just check the box next to who you like more… As for me, it’s ’people first’.
After they caught some of the rats that the Saenuri Party were feeding, pro-Park comments online have almost disappeared. They should have trained their pets better before they had them go to work. It was too easy to sniff them out by their trail of constant insults.
It’s safe to say that the tide has turned. The important thing is to win by more than 15% for the new administration’s good start. There is the worry about a split in public support if the votes are too close.
Let’s plant the roots of democracy deep into this land. Vote and save South Korea from the radical conservatives!!
The Queen of Rigged Elections.
Top comments on SNS fabrication from Daum:
Doesn’t the Shinchonji Party [pun on Saenuri Party name] know how obvious they look?? Do they think that people are fools??
The NEC has verified that the Saenuri Party’s Committee for Publication of National Policy purchased the office.
Rather than reporting on Park Geun-hye’s damage control attempt at her press conference, this article should have made the front page. The proof of Saenuri Party involvement is right here.
Top comments from Yonhap:
Isn’t this enough to require Park to forfeit? It had seemed like there were a lot of comments online supporting Park recently…. Tsk tsk.
Does anyone else feel like the comments online have gotten cleaner since yesterday?
So now Park comes out and does her own smoke and mirrors tricks~ ke ke ke ke
They even found certificates bearing her name… ha ha ha
Top comments from Daum:
You’ve got nowhere to escape to.. apologise and forfeit the race.
Everyone, write countless comments and save this article from obscurity.
It’s clear that the Saenuri Party was behind this. I hope the full truth of the NIS employee scandal comes out as well. This is all so crazy.