South Korean Presidential Election Debates, Netizen Reactions

South Koreans vote for a new president today in what has become a very tight election, tarnished by scandal, and never short of drama.

The main race is between progressive candidate Moon Jae-in for the Democratic United Party, and conservative candidate Park Geun-hye for the Saenuri Party. Park held a minute lead in the last polls; her victory would make her the first female president of South Korea but would also result in the offspring of dictators ruling over both sides of the 38th parallel (Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, was military dictator of South Korea from 1961 to 1979).

One particularly entertaining feature of the elections has been the presidential debates, where Lee Jung-hee, a Unified Progressive Party far-left outsider in the election who has since withdrawn her candidacy, dominated world headlines for her continued articulate lambasting of Park.

koreaBANG has collected netizen responses from all three of the presidential debates, along with the associated internet memes and parodies generated by each event.

First DebateSecond DebateThird Debate

Debate One – 4th December

Politics, Diplomacy, Security and Reunification

In the first of three debates, Lee Jung-hee made world headlines for her targeted lambasting of Park, and divided netizen opinion between those who supported her public revelations of Park’s personal and party history, and those who found her attacks rude and apparent pro-North Korean stance unacceptable.

In the debate, she described Park as a ‘queen’, referred to her late dictator father by his Japanese name, ‘Takaki Masao‘, and questioned Park on her vast wealth, amassed from her time in the Blue House. She said her sole purpose was to attack Park and, although this will have boosted opposition, it also sidelined Moon Jae-in’s role in the debate.

Her performance resulted in countless internet memes and Saturday Night Live Korea ran a hilarious skit of the whole affair:

Park is wondering why the Death Note is not working.

Kim Jung-Il behind Lee, Roh Mu-Hyun behind Moon and Park Jung-Hee behind Park

Banner for Lee Jung Hee on side of road.

“I will prevent the resurrection of Takaki Masao

A one-page summary of the first 2012 South Korean presidential candidate debate

Lee: The bitch in this neighbourhood is me.
Park: Shit!!
Moon: Okay, I’m going to stay quiet as hell.

What's wrong with all of you?

Park: What’s wrong with you, Moon?
Lee: What’s wrong with you, Park?
Park: What’s wrong with you all of a sudden, Lee?
Lee: Whatever, what’s wrong with YOU?
Moon: What’s the matter, both of you?

Comments from Nate:


With all that aside, I imagined Park Geun-Hye having a meeting with Obama…………………….. No nevermind, it’d be too embarrassing…


It’s nonsense to say Lee dominated the debate… It’s like saying the loudest person fights best… If someone simply cuts into others’ sentences and make personal attacks, do they win the debate? It’s correct to say there are ‘no winners’ from this debate. Lee simply picked a fight, with which Park did not deal well, and Moon was almost like an onlooker. It was a mediocre debate not worth evaluating. Pray don’t repeat this in the 2nd debate.. It’s embarrassing that these people are presidential candidates at all…


The elderly from the Republic of Korea’s great industrialisation era have fostered this country. Now it’s their time to rescue Korea from the forces of Chosun, JoongAng and Donga that distort the press. They are obscuring the public’s intellect with cleverly fabricated poll results. Please watch the debate; you can change the world with your passion that established this country and your right decision.


Is it true that [Park] received 600 million, accrued with all kinds of corruption, from Chun Doo-Hwan? It was a massive amount: at that time (in 1980) one could buy 30 apartment rooms in Gangnam. She admitted, on public TV, that she indeed received this money.. So there was a reason why Chun could avoid paying his fine and live well off, in peace..


Can we honestly say Park did a ‘debate’?? She simply read off the script [someone else has written]~ Wouldn’t anyone, unless really stupid, notice that??? Or, are they all shitheads who say Park did well??


Lee Jung-Hee, she simply had to show herself to give Park advantage. If she continues her candidacy she will gradually take Moon’s ground rather than Park’s. And if she forms an alliance with Moon, she will harm Moon’s public image. Even if she quietly steps down, she’s already irritated the conservative minds, so she’ll end up helping Park. She says her purpose for candidacy is to keep Park out of the presidential seat, but in fact it’s to put Moon out of public favour.


This is a debate, but you cannot make a surrebuttal? Let’s debate without constraints!


I’m a Joe Average who doesn’t favour Park or Moon, and I’m not trying to praise Lee’s ‘straight ball’ style of behaviour. Lee’s direct mentions [about Park] should be first verified by the press and other media, nevertheless [the press] are treating Park as an innocent victim and buttressing the support for Park. There is indeed no right-minded press in this country.

Comments from Daum:


This surely proves the reason why Park refused to debate on TV.


Saved by the rules that the National Election Commission imposed.


The Saenuri Party has to worry about her slip of the tongue.. ㅡㅡ Why did they choose the bitch with such crappy talent?


Prove it wrong, whatever Lee Jeong-hee said during the debate. She’s much better than most newspapers.


Let me write a scenario here: Next time, Saenuri is going to demand that Lee be removed from debates for not having high enough approval ratings (less than 1 per cent), and Park will refuse to debate unless such demand is satisfied, with the huge support of the press.


Park, it isn’t right to say ‘Are you running for the election to get the party subsidy [election campaign funding given by the government to candidates]?’ to your opponent. That’s why you got counter-attacked by Lee, saying ‘I’m here to make sure you lose the election.’ ke ke ke


It could’ve been avoidable if they did a one-on-one debate, but Saenuri is the one who refused to do so. And this is a free country; people have the right to know the truth. Thanks to Lee Jeong-hee, now I know that Park Chung-hee was ‘Takagi Masao’ and Park Geun-hye received 600 million Won (which back then was equal to the price of 30 Eunma Apartments in Gangnam) from Chun Doo-hwan because she was ‘preoccupied’ with her feelings.


The best moment of the last night’s debate: Takagi Masao!!!!!!! [Park Chung-hee’s Japanese name]


Does ‘saying the truth’ constitute blatant ridicule?


Lee didn’t ridicule Park, she criticised! There wasn’t anything wrong with what Lee said!


Lee didn’t make up any of those stories. Is it only me who felt satisfied during the debate?


The article suggests that Lee derailed the debate. But watch the debate again; when Lee said something irrelevant to the point, it was only when the opponent had already gone off topic.


Park is such a chicken head.. A-hyu..

Comments from Naver:


Summary of the debate: Park: ‘Hey, say Kim Jong-il is a SOB’.
Lee: ‘Say Park Chung-hee is a SOB’.
Moon: ‘I want a bucket of popcorn and a coke please.’


When Lee said ‘Southern State, oops, the Republic of Korea,’ I peed a little bit.


Some of you kids may think Lee did well on the debate because the way she talks is so confident and straightforward. Immature youngsters often confuse winning a debate with raising your voice during a debate. You know what?? Lee didn’t give a single answer properly. Moon and Park may sound less clear and sharp, but they calmly gave us proper answers. So stop focusing on their voice, and start listening to what they say.


Southern State ke ke ke ke ke Game over for Lee. Bye bye ke ke ke ke ke


Does Lee deserve to run for the presidency, even though she came out only to make sure Park loses the election? She didn’t even tell us her vision for the future of Korea!


Comrade Lee, do you think being on the presidential election is some kind of a joke? You didn’t give us a single answer to explain your policy plans. Thanks for letting me see a presidential candidate from the DPRK before I die.


Lee: “Southern State” = “I’m officially a Jongpuk“. “I’m here to make Park lose the election” = “I gave up on the election.” “I’m happy as long as Moon gets elected” = “We (Moon and Lee) are on the same team.” ke ke ke ke


Why do we have to tolerate watching that Jongpuk lady Lee ruining the debate? Her approval rating is about 0.3%, and yet she gets a third of the debate time. Isn’t it insulting for us to watch her infringing the right to know and being loyal to the North?


The article’s assessment is wrong. Moon didn’t have a dull existence, it’s more like Lee was acting over-the-top. I can relate to some of your criticism that Park wasn’t quick-witted, but her answers were nice and calm.


This is why we shouldn’t raise book smart kids. Stop emphasising academic achievements.. Look at Lee Jeong-hee.. It’s a fastest way to become a mental case.

Comments from Ilbe (considered a conservative web portal):


Lee was really impolite and immature. There are certain things one shouldn’t ever say. She revealed what low standards she has.


A smart-ass who learned lots is no good if the personality is no good. My father used to say this all the time: ‘An illiterate is worth employing, but not someone who is blind to people.’


[Lee’s] rudeness = [using the term] ‘Southern State.’ The mention of ‘Southern State’ got the conservatives’ blood up! = [which led to] a grand alliance of the conservatives.


Isn’t it a blunder to mention Park Jung-hee’s Japanese name because all the elderly back at that time used to have a Japanese name? This made the elderly rather angry.


Ah I nearly forgot that we need to speak ill of Moon, there’s no good in blaming Lee. But the kids here must have gotten really angry with the debate last night that they’re driving all their attacks on Lee.. In fact there’s no profit from it.


Miss Geun-Hye.. she’s a strong person. She seems mild but in fact she’s been well-tried and toughened up, more than anyone else.. If she becomes the president, Lee will be dead ke ke


What the hell are they saying… It’s true Park’s a bit dumb. Honestly speaking, I hope someone other than Park runs for candidacy.


Isn’t Lee also a strategic prop of Mr. President?


We really should dare Lee to say ‘Kim Il-sung is a SOBke ke ke

back to the top ^

Debate Two – 10th December

Welfare, Economy, Labour and Environment

The presidential debates were by now being referred to as ‘The Lee Jung-hee Show’, given her repeated (but entertaining) attacks against Park:


A: …no.
B: What do you want me to buy on my way home? Let’s have some snacks while we watch the Lee Jung-hee show.
A: Just get whatever you want, sis.


‘Kill Park’ Volume 2. Live on Monday 10th December, at 8PM, on KBS, MBC and SBS. The 2nd presidential candidate debate on economy, welfare, labour and environment.

Comments from Daum:


Park said she’s gonna boost the ‘underground economy’ ke ke ke ke ke Stupidity to the extreme.


Park answered to a question from Moon, ‘To cut the government spending, we have to decrease discretionary spending. And to raise the revenue, I’ll take measures to boost the underground economy and increase the revenue 27 trillion KRW each year, up to 135 trillion KRW in 5 years.’ Is she that stupid or simply ‘underground economy’ is in her instinct?


Lee’s wording is so accurate and precise, Park doesn’t even understand elementary school level of economics, and Moon is showing too much humility. What makes me surprised is that the candidate who isn’t even familiar with basic economics terms is ahead of the race.


Park exercised the right to remain silence. ke ke She must be really angry at Lee for pestering her on tax issues and making her menboonged. ke ke ke


Lee Jung-hee is such a nice surprise! She’s great. I hope she keeps up the good work on bothering Park till the presidential election.

Comments from Naver:


Lee sure hates Samsung fucking passionately ke ke ke ke


We’ve got to admit, Park has fallen behind on the debate today. Her economic agendas didn’t seem convincing enough.


Mmm I don’t support both the right and left.. From a neutral point of view, Park lost the debate miserably.. -_- She seemed fine in the first debate.. But today, she stuttered so much and didn’t seem to grasp her own policy plans. I even saw the déjà vu of President Lee Myung-bak in her. duh duh On the other hand, Moon did a terrible job in the first debate, but he won the debate today.. ke ke ke seemed well-informed, well-prepared.


The presidential candidate who pledges to boost the underground economy like prostitution, illegal gambling, organised crimes… Heol.. I’m speechless.. To laugh it off as a slip of her tongue is a huge risk: what if she keeps on making such mistakes when working on important policies and fails miserably? Who’s gonna take the responsibility for the repercussions?


Heol~~ I can’t believe it’s a presidential debate ㅠㅠ It’s SO hilarious, much better than comedy shows!!

Comments from Twitter:

Jong Man [email protected]

I feel sad about not having a father like Moon Jae-in and a sister like Lee Jung-hee, but I’m still happy because I’m glad not to have a mother like Park Geun-hye.

레인메이커 @mettayoon

Characteristics of someone who debates out of stuff learnt by heart: When asked a question, boots. Asked more, buffers. Asked deeper, goes down.


A simple discussion of today’s debate: Gold medal goes to Moon, silver to Lee, bronze to the host and stone medal to Park.


Lee only hits out at Park. Moon only hits out at policies. Park only strikes a blank look.


The winner of today’s debate is Moon. If I were him, I’d have said nothing, scared of the two fighting women. But Moon calmly made a maximum use of his time. He’s a brave guy.


One thing is evident from this debate: Takaki Masao is at least better than Park.

jungkwon [email protected]

[Park’s] tax requirements on her house in Seongbuk-dong…. [Park] could have said ‘father’s death kept me busy then [so I didn’t pay the taxes then], so I will pay them from now on’ and just moved on. I don’t understand why she picked a fight with Lee at that point.

jungkwon [email protected]

When talking about the performance of the previous regimes, Moon straightforwardly admitted [his Party’s faults] but Park never admitted any [of her Party’s faults] and blamed others. As a candidate from the ruling party, there has not been a word of apology about this regime’s performance at all. That was a bit weird.

jungkwon [email protected]

Scores for today’s debate: Lee gets 80, Moon gets 80 and Park gets, umm…. I won’t give her a score today, because it was a bit embarrassing.


After the 600 million that was illegally received from Chun Du-Hwan, [Lee] mentioned [Park’s] Seongbuk-dong house, 300-square-meters large and offered as bribe in 1981 from Shin Gi-Su, the chairman of Gyeongnam Co.. And [Lee] demanded to know if Park has ever payed the taxes properly. Park must have got immensely shocked. She stutters at the end of the debate.


An acquaintance of mine asked me how the debate is going at the moment, so I replied: ‘No.3 [Lee] is doing the best debate, no.2 [Moon] is good at presenting sincerity and his outlook, and no.1 [Park] is good at reading memo.’

EUNHONG [email protected]

[Park] should have lived a quiet life, taking care of her younger siblings with the great sum of money from her dad, brother and uncles. We should in fact take pity on her.


Park said she will activate the underground economy during the last debate. That’ll encourage owners of hostess bars, pimps, drug dealers and other underground traders to cast their votes to Park. Congrats.


I captured the moment that Park talked about ‘activating the underground economy’ during the presidential candidate debate. It must be a slip of the tongue, but is it just me who thinks it reflects what she actually has in mind? The underground economy was indeed activated during the Yushin era.


Liver diseases are one of the main causes of deaths in Korea, so I don’t understand why Park left it out of the 4 major diseases that the government should focus its support on. Does she think it’s enough to drink ‘Urusa [a health supplement drink claimed to improve the liver and fatigue]’ singing ‘it’s all because of your liver~’?


Summary of Park’s policy on medical insurance: Those with a bad liver should try to have a bad heart instead from now on. ㅠㅠ

Daehee [email protected]_kdh

Miss Princess [Park’s nickname]! Cancer patients are already paying just 5% of their medical fees. But do you really know why it still costs so much for the patients? It’s because of the fees not covered by insurance, like the nursing fee, extra fee for better hospital rooms and fees for naming individual doctors – what Moon was talking about. If you don’t take care of these fees, it’ll still be the same if 100% was supported!


When Lee was entering the TV debate studio with her bag, the Central Election Management Committee stopped her. But Park entered the studio with her bags. Are you the Central Election Management Committee, or the Central Election Involvement Committee?

효민스님 on facebook

Park says: Democratic United Party did such and such…
Moon says: Saenuri Party did such and such…
Lee says: Park you bitch!

back to the top ^

Debate Three

Lee Drops Out, Park vs. Moon

Lee Jung-hee announced she was withdrawing, giving a small boost to the opposition, making today’s race even tighter.

Comments from Nate on Lee withdrawing her candidacy:


Leave the 270 million KRW [all candidates receive funding help from the government for their campaigns], you bitch!


She must’ve felt agitated to debate on the national security issues tonight.


You commies! Give back the campaign subsidy and go back to your motherland, North Korea.


Lee: Oppa, I’ll send 270 million KRW~♥ Please use it for the one-year anniversary in memory of Dear Leader, Kim Jong Il.
Kim Jong Un: Money transfer confirmed.


Oh.. She should proceed with the debate tonight. What’s the fun in that without her?


The Jongpuk are finally united. ke ke Moon Jae-in + Lee Jung-hee + Ahn Cheol-soo + Lim Soo-kyung + Sim Sang-jeong + Lee Seok-ki. Congratulations on the grand unification!


She has to deal with the 270 million KRW issue first!


Give us back the 270 million, you bitch!!


The major players of this election are now clear: The Republic of Korea (Park Geun-hye) VS Jongpuks (Moon Jae-in, Lee Jung-hee, Ahn Cheol-soo, Sim Sang-jeong, Leem Soo-kyung). It’s like a mock war between the South and North. Please vote and abolish the Jongpuk.


This election is like a joke..

Comments from Daum:


Park must’ve been studying her note summary all day long to counter Lee during the debate tonight. ke ke It’s so pleasing just imagining how Park must feel right now; she should be like ‘There’s no time. Give me a different note.’ Lee made a great decision for Moon. Moon should repay her by winning the election. Let’s vote for sure. No. 2 Moon Jae-in, hwaiting!


Thanks, Lee ke Good work! ke ke


Let’s vote and change the regime!


Lee has prevented a national disaster [letting Park get elected]. Lee is surely making Park fail.

발라드의 첨성대:

Well, the dead Jung-hee (Park Chung-hee) is taken down by the live Jung-hee (Lee) [Lee and Park’s name have the same Korean characters]! Lee, I’ll forgive 99% of your sins from the last parliamentary election.


Lee, I won’t forget what you’ve done today. Thank you ^^ Let’s hunt some chickens [Saenuri Party] on the 19th December! Hwai-ting!


Lee, we will remember your sacrifice and repay by voting. Thank you so much!


We all knew you’d drop out of the race.


Why doesn’t Park quit the campaign? She’s too thick-skinned.


Moon, please show us Chicken Park getting fried in the one-on-one debate.

Comments from Twitter:

Smile~ @smile_ystkyrk:

If the debate participants were ranked… 1st place: Moon Jae-In, 2nd place: sign language communicator, 3rd place: empty seat [left empty indicating Lee’s absence], 4th place: host, and also-ran: Park…

조국 @patriamea:

After this debate, when the professor asks a student, ‘Why didn’t you study at all last term?’, I’m worried there will be more students answering, ‘That’s why I’m trying to become a professor.’

[Note: When Moon asked Park about her role in the present administration’s poor performance, Park replied, ‘That’s why I’m running for presidency – I mean to do well once I am elected.’]

Jedong Kim @keumkangkyung:

I haven’t had the chance to watch last night’s presidential debate, but it looks like it was fun. Please give me some funny bits from it so I can use them for my talk concert.

jungkwon chin @unheim:

If Moon’s presence was weak in the 1st debate, in the 2nd it was significant. The 3rd debate, which was a two-way battle, clearly showed who was fully prepared to become president. Moon has achieved a landslide victory.

신경민 SHIN,Kyoung-min @mentshin:

The 3rd debate revealed some things. It revealed why [Park] had refused to have a two-way debate, amidst criticism. It revealed how bullheaded she was, that no-one around her could restrain her and that she cannot mend her previous mistakes – she obstinately brought her bag to the studio, although it was banned to do so. The debate revealed that half her slogan of ‘a fully-prepared female president’ is not true.

Joseph Kim @gigolonim:

Out of all the tweets about the 3rd debate, this one made me LOL the most: ‘If a first-grader in primary school eats unsanitary food and studies with a book for second-graders at the same time? -> records 2 convictions! Oh my ke ke ke

[Note: Park’s campaign promises include banning unsanitary foodstuff usually sold at low prices as snacks for young children, and making it illegal to learn something beyond one’s level of education.]

서천석 Suh Cheonseok @suhcs:

Today’s debate gave university applicants a stratagem for their interviews: When the interviewer says, ‘Your academic records aren’t good, and you don’t have anything else to make up for them, so it’ll be difficult for you to get an offer from us…’ the students can say, ‘I haven’t done well so far, so I’m going to do well once I get accepted!’

박중훈 Joonghoon Park @moviejhp:

I watched the presidential election. I didn’t know how utterly low the standard of one of the sides was. I had hoped that I would have to consider my choices as a voter, because both sides were logical and sensible, only differing in their points of views. But in a word, it turned out to be ridiculous.

노회찬 @hcroh:

If Dante were to write Divina Commedia all over again, he’d have included the presidential candidate TV debate as a type of hell. There is no greater pain than saying things you don’t mean, on topics you’re not interested in, using technical lingo you’re not familiar with.

김수일? @na_suiri:

My work colleague used to support no.1 [Park] because her husband works in the construction field, but she changed her mind after watching the 3rd debate. She says it was because Park was just too ignorant. One stops supporting a presidential candidate because she is IGNORANT… Funny, but somewhat sad at the same time.

정우석? @windfarmer21095:

Park is so stuffy. She should either practise debating really hard or at least practise listening carefully to the other person… Talking to the wall would be better than [talking to her], at least the wall doesn’t cut off your sentences. Tut tut tut, I feel so embarrassed whenever I’m watching the presidential debate ㅡㅠㅡ

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