UN chief still favorite presidential candidate

February 25, 2016
(Korea Times)

(Source: Hankookilbo / Korea Times)

By Kang Seung-woo

United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Ban Ki-moon would still beat any other candidate in next year’s presidential election, according to the latest poll.

The poll, compiled by the Hankook Ilbo, a sister paper of The Korea Times, showed Ban’s high popularity among Korean voters as a potential candidate although he has never publicly showed interest in running for the presidency.

The survey of 1,000 participants showed Ban as the runaway leader with 21.5 percent.

The former foreign minister is trailed by Rep. Moon Jae-in, a former chairman of the main opposition Minjoo Party of Korea, with 12.6 percent and ruling Saenuri Party Chairman Rep. Kim Moo-sung with 7.9 percent.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Ahn Cheol-soo, leader of the People’s Party, received 7.4 percent and 4.8 percent support, respectively.

Ban, 71, had balanced support from all age groups ranging from 17.2 percent among voters in their 40s to 29.8 percent among those in their 50s.

He also drew 29.2 percent approval from Saenuri Party supporters and 19.7 from People’s Party supporters.

The poll is the latest indicator that Ban is the most favored potential candidate for the 2017 presidential election.

Since late 2014, Ban has emerged as favorite among a field of potential candidates who might stand during the next presidential election. His U.N. tenure is scheduled to end in December this year.

However, in contrast to his repeated denials, Ban recently sparked further speculation that he may seek to be elected the Korean president.

Late last year, he sought to visit North Korea, which was seen as the beginning of his election campaign.

Also, during President Park Geun-hye’s trip to U.N. headquarters in September, Ban had several private talks with her, prompting speculation that she may endorse him if he stands for the presidency.

Last month, Ban also met former Finance Minister Choi Kyung-hwan, President Park’s close aide, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

Opposition parties disappointing

At the same time, the poll revealed that Korean voters intend to express their displeasure with the opposition’s lackluster legislative activities more than with President Park’s performance in the April 13 general election.

According to the poll, 46.6 percent of respondents said the opposition party should be judged for its non-cooperation with the government’s pursuit of state policies, compared with 41.2 percent who claimed the government should be judged on its poor administration of state affairs.

So far, Park’s repeated calls on the public to punish the National Assembly’s negligence on passing economy-related bills seem to be working, the survey concluded.

Park entered the fourth year of her five-year single-term presidency, Thursday, and nearly half of Koreans believed that she handled state affairs well, the poll added.

A total of 48.5 five percent of respondents approved of Park’s job performance over the past three years, with 45.8 percent disapproving.

The result, in which approval is higher than disapproval, is rare for Korean presidents, with two years remaining in their terms.

The ratings for Park’s predecessor Lee Myung-bak at the end of his third year were 44.7 percent in favor to 53.6 percent against.

A total of 50.4 percent of respondents approved of the possible deployment of the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area system here to combat increased North Korean threats; while 55.5 percent said it was a good decision to shut down the Gaeseong Industrial Park in response to Pyongyang’s recent nuclear test and rocket launch.

One thousand adults were surveyed on Sunday and Monday, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.