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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A new mayor for Seoul, a new landscape for 2012

As expected, PARK Won-Soon won the 10.26 mayoral elections by a wide margin (53+/46+). Rival NA Kyung-won did close the gap following successful TV debates (see "Park-Na debate on KBS"), and she even took the lead in polls, but a scandal involving president LEE Myung-bak (suspicious conditions for land acquisition regarding his future residence and police staff) spectacularly inverted the trend, and a final push from PARK's sponsor AHN Cheol-soo buried all remaining hopes for NA, for whom PARK Geun-hye proved more a drag than a boost.

With both local candidates lacking OH Se-hoon's charisma and reach, Seoul served more than ever as a national test, the results confirming structural political divides between rich and poor districts, and between younger generations and older citizens.

At the national level, PARK Geun-hye definitely took her first major blow since the GNP leader and the founder of AhnLab are supposed to face each other for next year's presidential elections. A symbol of paleo-conservatism, PARK Chung-hee's daughter has been around for years without disclosing any sign of appetence for reform. A total newcomer in politics, AHN Cheol-soo has yet to prove his capacity to manage and reform an administration. His best card remains his Independant label : traditional parties have lost all appeal and particularly to the country's middle class and younger generations.

PARK Won-Soon won with the support of a liberal coalition but as an Independent. Focusing on the demolition of his predecessor's heritage or sterile witch huntings following the absurd battle for free lunches at school (see previous episodes) would pave the way for a noxious presidential campaign next year.

Seoul must remain on the positive path set by OH, who boosted the city's attractiveness at the global as well as at the local level : 78% of Seoulites feel they belong to the capital compared to only 65% in 2006.

The new mayor must now work on bringing all Seoulites together, confirming the city's positive evolutions, a setting an ambitious but sustainable vision for the future.

Seoul Village 2011
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