Polls show Ban favored as presidential candidate

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Polls show Ban favored as presidential candidate

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon led in the latest support poll for South Korea’s next potential president, giving him yet another hopeful sign that he could defeat all other seasoned politicians now busy gearing up for the country’s highest office in next year’s election.

Ban topped the poll conducted by the JoongAng Ilbo of 1,000 adults nationwide by receiving 32.7 percent support from eligible voters, nearly twice that of Moon Jae-in’s 17.3 percent.

Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party received 8.1 percent while Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon received 4.2 percent, trailed by former Saenuri chairman Kim Moo-sung with 3.9 percent. Former Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon garnered 3.7 percent, followed by former Gyeonggi governor Sohn Hak-kyu with 3.2 percent.

The JoongAng’s poll, conducted on Sept. 20 and 21 with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, comes at a time of growing speculation over whether Ban will declare his bid for presidential office upon completing his second term at the United Nations at the end of this year.

Ban’s comment earlier this month that he would leave for his homeland right after he finishes his job at the multinational body has stirred conjecture that he will indeed declare his bid in January. The poll also found the veteran diplomat to have been the most favored person among other potential contenders, receiving a whopping 63.0 percent favorability rating while Moon, former chairman of the Minjoo Party of Korea, had a 49.3 percent of favorability rating. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon came in third with 46.6 percent.

In terms of familiarity, 95.1 percent of respondents said they knew Moon well, probably due to his race against incumbent president Park Geun-hye in the 2012 election, which resulted in his bitter defeat by a margin of 3.53 percent. Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo followed Moon with 94.8 percent while Ban came in third with 93.9 percent.

While Ban leads in a number of polls, his number is expected to change somewhat once he steps into the mud-slinging world of presidential campaigning. Once he emerges as a likeable runner from the ruling party,the opposition bloc is certain to bring into question Ban’s 10-year performance at the United Nations and his qualifications as commander in chief.

“For Ban, the favorability rating (of 63 percent) could be the high watermark that he would not be able to break in the future [after he joins the contest],” said Ka Sang-joon, professor of political science at Dankook University.

“His favorability rating is likely to fall once he faces backlash from the general public for his political decisions, such as joining the Saenuri Party and forming an alliance with members loyal to President Park Geun-hye.”

If Ban were to jump into the ring, one much-talked about scenario is that he would opt to run as the nominee of the ruling Saenuri with support from members of the pro-Park faction within the party.

Sensing the growing momentum for Ban’s presidential bid, former Saenuri chief Kim Moo-sung, who does not belong to the pro-Park faction, remarked last week in an apparent jab that Ban had been called by the U.S. media as the “worst UN chief ever.”

Ban also stands strong with high favorability rating across age groups. For survey respondents in their 20s, 56.4 percent of them saw Ban as likeable.

The rating declined for those in their 30s at 51.9 percent but rebounded in the 40-age group with 60.1 percent. Ban’s favorability rating for those in 50s and 60s were 71.6 percent and 71.9 percent each.

For Moon, former presidential chief of staff for the late Roh Moo-hyun, he was most liked by those in their 30s with 65.4 percent, followed by a 63.2 percent rating among those in their 20s. Moon’s likability saw a steep decline among older people. The number dropped to 41.9 percent for those in their 50s and 29.4 percent for those older than 60.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, KANG TAE-HWA [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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