Wednesday, June 2, 2010

OH Se-hoon V2.0

After a long night, Seoul Mayor OH Se-hoon was confirmed for a second term, finishing a few thousand ballots ahead of HAN Myeong-sook (47%+ vs 47%-), but with spectacular differences depending on age brackets : HAN ruled over the younger generations and OH over older citizens (no overall voting gender gap).

As expected, an asymetrical campaign opposed an incumbent focusing on his city and a national champion positioning herself in the footsteps of the late President ROH Moo-hyun and against President LEE Myung-bak. The Cheonan tragedy was not really an issue in the last days, when KIM Jong-il faded in the background (a cameo appearance on time for the G20, maybe ?). HAN almost won thanks to a last minute rally leveraging on her base of young voters, and a weaker mobilization in the conservative camp. Overall, the turnout was better than expected, and the weather as sunny as it should be in early June.

At the end of the day - well... the beginning, indeed -, both champions won : OH remains the Mayor, and HAN's Democratic Party (Minju Dang) claims the bulk of Seoul's 25 "gu"*, leaving only Jungnang-gu and LEE's traditional base of haves and have mores (Seocho-gu, Gangnam-gu, Songpa-gu, the latest by the tiniest margin as the real estate bubble keeps deflating) to the ruling conservative Grand National Party (Hanara Dang). To add insult to the injury for the GNP, GWAK No-hyeon (Dem) defeated LEE Won-heui (Con) in the race to the top job for education in Seoul.

Actually, this political cohabitation may suit OH Se-hoon's progressive agenda : he is not exactly a divisive figure, except precisely for the conservative base of real estate speculators who were not very found of his push in favor of a more sustainable development**. And OH would be more than happy to see Seoul's educational system undermine hagwonocracy and restore some of the meritocracy that made the Hangang miracle possible. And to deliver his ambitious promise : Seoul gained 15 places in World capital rankings during his first term (from 27th to 15th), and he pledged to reach the 5th spot by the end of his second mandate.

Easier said than done, but hey, that's politics, and Korean politics at that...

Anyway, for the first time*** Seoul reelected its Mayor, and some continuity won't hurt international recognition.

Seoul Village 2010

* unlike Paris, where voters elect district teams who then decide of the Mayor, such a cohabitation is possible in Seoul since 1995 and the introduction of direct elections for the Metropolitan Mayor.
** even if much remains to be done (ie hanok preservation)
*** GOH Kun served twice but as an appointed Mayor (1988-90 and 1998-2002)

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