Election Highlights Generation Gap

      December 20, 2012 12:21

      One of the most striking features of Wednesday's presidential election was the generational standoff between voters. Vote results showed that traditional regional rivalry between voters in the Gyeongsang and Jeolla provinces has eased but ballots were clearly divided between urban and provincial residents.

      President-elect Park Geun-hye won all regions except Seoul and South Jeolla Province.

      Voters wait in line to cast their ballot in the presidential election at a polling station in Bongcheon-dong, Seoul on Wednesday. /Yonhap

      Exit polls by broadcasters KBS, MBC and SBS revealed that turnout among voters in their 50s stood at 89.9 percent and 78.8 percent among voters in their 60s, well ahead of voters in their 20s with 65.2 percent and 30s with 72.5 percent.

      Overall voter turnout tallied by the National Election Commission was 75.8 percent, the highest of all nine nationwide elections since 2000. Long lines could be spotted at polling stations across the country since early in the morning braving temperatures of -10 degrees and having to wait for up to 40 minutes at some stations in the afternoon.

      The generation gap was clearly demonstrated in approval ratings for Park Geun-hye of the conservative Saenuri ruling party and her rival Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party.

      Exit polls by the three major broadcasters showed Park’s approval rating among voters in their 20s and 30 at around a paltry 33 percent. In contrast, Moon enjoyed support of about 65- 66 percent in that age group.

      But among voters over 50s, the trend was reversed, with 62.5 percent supporting Park, 25.1 percentage points ahead of Moon. Among voters in their 60s, the gap was a massive 44.8 percentage points.

      Park garnered double-digit vote wins in South Jeolla Province, a traditional stronghold of the progressive camp where conservative candidates have traditionally failed miserably. Park had an average 10.4 percent of votes in North and South Jeolla provinces and Gwangju. It was the first time that a Saenuri Party candidate won more than 10 percent of votes in the South Jeolla region since the direct election system began in Korea in 1987. Throughout her campaign, Park had pitched the need for national harmony and tried to embrace the people of the Jeolla provinces.

      But based on overall votes, Gwangju and South Jeolla Province continued to remain progressive bastions, while Daegu and North Gyeongsang Province remained solidly conservative.

      Moon did fairly well in the southern port city of Busan, where he won 39.6 percent of the votes, 10 percentage points higher than former President Roh Moo-hyun in 2002 and close to the target set by the DUP. Voters in Busan, Ulsan and South Gyeongsang Province account for 16 percent of total voters and the equivalent of about one-third of voters in Seoul. Park was able to make up for her weak performance in Seoul by winning votes there.

      Park fared better than expected in Seoul, surrounding Gyeonggi Province and the western port city of Incheon, where half of all eligible voters live. Former president Roh managed to win the 2002 election by securing 51 percent of the ballots in those areas, and candidate Lee Hoi-chang fell seven percentage points behind Roh because he failed to win there.

      But Park won 48.18 percent of the votes in Seoul, falling only three percentage points behind Moon. In Gyeonggi Province she led by 1.24 points and in Incheon by 3.54 points.

      Another reason for her victory was her solid lead in Daejeon and Chungcheong provinces. In contrast, Moon had aimed to win around 50 percent of the votes in those areas but ended up falling far behind.

      Another key characteristic of this election was the firm support for the conservative candidate among rural voters.

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