Park’s controversy deals blow to Ban Ki-moon’s chances

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Park’s controversy deals blow to Ban Ki-moon’s chances

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The political firestorm threatening the presidency of Park Geun-hye is now jeopardizing longtime frontrunner UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s chance in next year’s presidential race.

According to Realmeter’s latest poll, announced on Monday, Ban was supported as the next president by 20.9 percent in the fourth week of October, down by 1.3 percentage points from the previous week.

Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the Minjoo Party of Korea, who was defeated by President Park in the 2012 race, was ranked second with 20.3 percent, up by 1.4 percentage points.

While Ban managed to remain the frontrunner for 13 consecutive weeks, the 0.6-percentage-point gap against Moon is within a margin of error.

Ban has never formally declared his bid, but Park loyalists in the Saenuri Party have enthusiastically expressed their desire to recruit him as their presidential candidate.

His tenure at the United Nations ends at the end of this year, and Ban said in September that he will return to Korea in January and address the people.

The latest poll was conducted from Monday to Friday of last week, and President Park and the Saenuri Party’s plummeting support was reflected in Ban’s popularity in the aftermath of the corruption scandal involving Park’s friend, Choi Soon-sil.

Since the media reports on the Choi scandal, Ban’s rating steadily went down. On Thursday and Friday, Moon pushed him down to second place. On Friday, his rating sank below the 20-percent mark to 19.9 percent.

Moon, in contrast, saw an improving chance as his rating steadily went up over the past weeks.

Ahn Cheol-soo, former chairman of the People’s Party, was ranked third with 10.5 percent.

“As the people are identifying Choi with Park and the Saenuri Party, the popularity of Ban, considered a ruling party candidate, is hurt,” said Kwon Soon-jung, head of the opinion poll department at Realmeter.

“If the Choi scandal continues until the end of the year and being a Saenuri candidate means defeat, Ban will likely consider becoming a so-called Third Zone candidate, which may include an alliance with Ahn.”

A “Third Zone,” or Third Way, candidate is one who operates outside the two largest political parties - the Saenuri Party and the Minjoo Party. The Saenuri Party is currently controlled by Park loyalists, while the Minjoo Party is dominated by supporters of Moon.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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