|Ko Min-jung, left, the candidate from the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, and Oh Se-hoon from the main opposition United Future Party stage one-person election campaigns for the general election in the Gwangjin-B constituency in Seoul, March 11 and 12, respectively. The gap in approval rating between the former spokeswoman to President Moon Jae-in and former Seoul mayor is very close. Courtesy of Ko and Oh's election camps|
This is the second in a series on battleground districts for April 15 general election. ― ED.
Election result hard to predict with close gap in approval ratings between candidates
By Jung Da-min
A competition between a rookie and a veteran politicians is being held in Seoul's Gwangjin-B district for the April 15 general election.
They are ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) candidate Ko Min-jung, who is a former spokeswoman of President Moon Jae-in, and the main opposition United Future Party's (UFP) Oh Se-hoon, former Seoul mayor from 2006 to 2011.
The situation is, however, not entirely favorable to the veteran Oh, as Gwangjin-B has long been considered home territory for the liberal camp and no candidate from a conservative party has won here since 1996. But it is not that advantageous to Ko as well, as the gap in approval ratings between Ko and Oh is quite close.
According to a survey conducted by Research and Research of 502 eligible voters in the district from March 17 to 18, 43.2 percent of the respondents supported Ko while 40.27 percent preferred Oh. The survey has a 95 percent confidence level with a plus or minus 4.4 percentage point margin of error.
Compared to Oh, Ko's political career is rather short. Ko, 40, was a well-known TV anchorwoman for public broadcaster KBS before joining the election campaign team for then-presidential candidate Moon in 2017. After Moon took office, Ko worked at the public relations team at Cheong Wa Dae as vice spokeswoman and then spokeswoman before resigning from the post in mid-January to run in the general election.
Political watchers say that Ko would need a strategy of emphasizing her party, as the ruling party has a lead in surveys of party approval ratings, with the Research and Research survey showing 39.4 percent suppot for the DPK and 22.8 percent for the UFP.
On the other hand, Oh is advised to promote his career as a long-time politician who could be a presidential contender. Oh, 59, a lawyer-turned-lawmaker, made his political debut in 2000 when he was elected as a lawmaker of the then-main opposition Grand National Party, a predecessor of the UFP. In 2006, he was elected mayor of Seoul and re-elected in 2010. But he resigned from the post in 2011 after losing a referendum on the city's free school lunch program.
As a former spokeswoman for Moon, Ko's election is seen by many as a referendum on the Moon administration. Those supporting the government are expected to vote for her and those against it, for Oh.
In addition to her experience at Cheong Wa Dae, her short political career can be both an advantage and a disadvantage, because some residents worry about the lack of experience while others say they need a fresh figure who breaks from convention.
Oh's experience as Seoul mayor and lawmaker is big advantage. But some point out he has the image of one of the "old boys" in politics, and he also has to overcome Gwangjin-B residents' consistent support for the liberal bloc.
Political watchers also say the candidate who could win young people's votes could be a game changer. According to statistics from the Seoul Metropolitan Government, Gwangjin is the sixth-youngest district among 25 districts in the capital, with the average age of residents being 41.8.
Both candidates presented election promises targeting young people. Oh promised that he would build a "relief" center for those who live alone in studio apartments or multiplex housing units to provide a parcel receiving service. Ko promised that she would build a life-sharing platform called "Gwangjin One Town" for those living alone, which provides shared spaces like a kitchen or a garage and an online platform where people share information.
While some say old voters generally prefer a conservative candidate and young voters pick a liberal one, others say that such a widely known tendency is no longer valid when many young people criticized the Moon government over recent scandals that raised issues of fairness, including allegations of favorable treatment in academic studies of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk's daughter due to her parents' influence.