Park's Victory Upsets Conventional Wisdom

      December 20, 2012 12:31

      Park Geun-Hye waves after arriving at Saenuri Party headquarters in Seoul on Wednesday after being elected Korea's first female president.

      Park Geun-hye's victory on Wednesday shattered a number of jinxes that had dogged previous presidential elections.

      The first is that a higher turnout means a defeat for the conservative candidate. Since the 1997 presidential election, progressive candidates won all elections where the turnout was over 70 percent. In 1997, when the turnout was 80.7 percent, Kim Dae-jung beat Lee Hoi-chang. In the following election, Roh Moo-hyun beat Lee Hoi-chang with turnout at 70.8 percent.

      But in 2007, when Lee Myung-bak triumphed over Chung Dong-young, the turnout was a mere 63 percent.

      Yet on Wednesday, although the turnout was surprisingly high at 75.8 percent, Park prevailed, chiefly because she was able to galvanize massive turnout from older voters while young people were uninspired by challenger Moon Jae-in.

      Secondly, it has been a rule of a thumb that losing Seoul means losing in the election. Since 1997, no candidate who lost in Seoul managed to win overall.

      In 1997, Kim earned 44.87 percent of the votes in Seoul and beat Lee Hoi-chang, who garnered only 40.89 percent. In 2002, Roh won Seoul with 51.3 percent over Lee Hoi-chang’s 44.95 percent. Five years later, Lee Myung-bak scored 53.23 percent in Seoul, securing a comfortable lead over Chung's 24.5 percent.

      Yet Park lost to Moon in Seoul with 48.18 percent to 51.42 percent but won the country.

      Park also broke the jinx that losing among the voters in their 40s spells defeat. The exit polls of the three major broadcasters showed Park at 44.1 percent among those in their 40s, a solid 11.5 percent behind Moon’s 55.6 percent. But Park's fervent older following easily made up for it.

      But other jinxes remain. Losing in North Chungcheong Province meant a defeat in this year's presidential election as well, as it had in all six presidential elections since 1987. Park won 56.22 percent in the province, way ahead of Moon's 43.26 percent.

      That there is never an upset victory also remained true. In a poll by Media Research for the Chosun Ilbo on Nov. 24 and 25, just before the official campaign period began, Park had 43.5 percent of support, 3.6 points ahead of Moon's 39.9 percent.

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