The Korean national football team got through the preliminary matches at the 2012 London Summer Olympics without encountering many odds and eventually clinched the bronze medal. Fans did not have to hold their breath and calculate the different possible scenarios of victory and defeat, which had been common practice during previous Olympic and World Cup tournaments as the Korean squad narrowly missed or succeeded in moving up to the next level of competition.
Forecasting the number of possible scenarios is not relegated to the sport of soccer. In politics, candidates are lining up for the December presidential election. The ruling Saenuri Party on Aug. 20 chose former chairwoman Park Geun-hye as its candidate, but the main opposition Democratic United Party has yet to choose its candidate.
At present, there are four possible scenarios with the DUP hopefuls Moon Jae-in, Sohn Hak-kyu, Kim Doo-kwan and Chung Se-kyun each facing off against Park. But when software tycoon Ahn Cheol-soo joins the race, he could very well end up being selected as the pan-opposition candidate instead of the DUP candidate. If Ahn runs as an independent, however, a three-way race between him, the DUP candidate and Park is also possible.
That amounts to nine different scenarios. If the Unified Progressive Party decides to field its own presidential candidate, the picture becomes even more complicated.
Pollsters and pundits will have to juggle these scenarios for the time being. The DUP will not choose its candidate until October at the earliest or seek an agreement with Ahn about who will represent the opposition in the presidential election. If the negotiations drag on, choosing a single candidate could take until November, just ahead of the December vote.
This contrasts sharply with the drawn-out election campaigns of the U.S., where voters will hit the ballots in November. The Republic Party more or less picked Mitt Romney as its presidential candidate in May to run against President Barack Obama. The two will have spent six months announcing their policies on the economy, fiscal spending and taxes, as well as their social agenda, from abortion to immigration, and debating each other in front of the public. Compared to this, the Korean presidential race is a flash in the pan.
Amid uncertainties about who will run for the presidency in each party, pollsters are only able to survey public opinions focusing on the various hypothetical permutations -- a two-way race, three-way race, a showdown between multiple candidates -- and asking voters about the suitability of the DUP candidate or pan-opposition candidate. There is no room left for questions about policies and other issues of national importance.
According to a recent poll, 55 percent of respondents believe that Ahn will eventually throw his hat in the ring, while 22 percent say he will not and 23 percent are unsure. Pollsters are virtually asking voters to predict the race, which shows just how abnormal the run-up to the election is.
Since political parties started holding primaries in 1992, the major party's candidate who was chosen at least a week earlier than a rival party candidate has always ended up winning the election. Although the timing of the party nomination and presidential election win may be a coincidence, it remains to be seen whether this pattern will repeat itself this year.
By Hong Young-lim from the Chosun Ilbo's News Desk