Opposition candidate pulls ahead in Busan race
In the Busan mayoral race, the main opposition party's Park Heong-joon is a clear frontrunner, a latest poll showed.
In a JoongAng Ilbo survey conducted one month before the April 7 by-election, the People Power Party (PPP) candidate scored 48 percent. Kim Young-choon from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) was a distant second with 32.5 percent.
The PPP nominated Park, a political ally of former President Lee Myung-bak, as its candidate last Thursday. The DP finalized Kim, former maritime minister for the Moon Jae-in administration, as its candidate on Saturday. Last year, Busan Mayor Oh Keo-don, the first DP politician ever to win the post, resigned after admitting to sexually molesting a City Hall employee.
According to the poll, voters under the age of 50 largely supported Kim, while voters over 50 supported Park. "Voters in their 30s and 40s were already supporters of the DP," said Lee Jong-hun, a political commentator. "And the older voters are more conservative than the young, so they are backing Park."
Among respondents supporting Kim, 61.4 percent identified themselves as liberals and 74.6 percent said they are supporters of the Moon administration.
Among Park supporters, 75.4 percent identified themselves as conservatives and 80.9 percent said the by-election should be used to send a negative verdict on the performance of the Moon administration.
The poll also asked about Moon's controversial project to build a new international airport on Gadeok Island near Busan. According to the poll, 59.6 percent said they support the project, while 33.9 percent said they oppose it.
Asked if a special law governing a plan to build the new airport will affect the mayoral by-election, 43.6 percent said they thought it would have no impact on the race. Another 35.7 percent said they thought it would help the DP candidate, while 9.9 percent said they thought it would help the opposition candidate.
The ruling DP passed a special law to build the airport on Feb. 26, just one day after Moon and his entourage of political bigwigs spent a day in Busan attending elaborate events describing its future as a "megacity."
Both the presidential trip and the DP's passage of the airport law, just weeks before the country's second-largest city elects its new mayor, prompted criticism from the PPP.
Despite the ruling party and Moon's pushing of the airport, it was not instantly generating support for the DP's Kim. "The controversy surrounding the Gadeok Island airport continued for more than a decade, so it cannot have an immediate impact," said Park Sang-heon, a political commentator.
Another political strategist, Jang Seong-cheol, said the new airport won't be a deciding factor in the election because both the DP and PPP support It.
Asked if they had already decided who to vote for, 50.9 percent of respondents said they had, and 47.4 percent said they had not. Among voters between 18 to 29, 84.7 percent said they had not, and 65.8 percent of respondents in their 30s also said they have not.
Asked which political party they support, 29.9 percent said the DP and 30.8 percent said the PPP. While Kim's rating was similar to that of his party's, Park's rating was 17 percentage points higher than the PPP's.
"The centrists and those who support neither party are supporting Park," said Bae Cheol-ho, a researcher for the polling company Realmeter.
Among those who identified themselves as centrist, 46.6 percent said they supported Park and 31 percent said they supported Kim. Of the voters who said they support none of the existing political parties, Park scored 36.3 percent and Kim 13.2 percent.
BY HYUN IL-HOON, SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]