SGRA Kawaraban (Essay) in English

Kim Yullee ”Korean Presidential Election – People selected “burying the past abuse””

Mr. Moon Jae-in was elected the 19thKorean president on May 9, 2017.


The election, this time, was held for the presidency, which has been vacant after the impeachment of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye. The former president Park should have been the “symbol of obedience to the constitution and laws” to the Korean people. But, she was impeached at the Constitutional Court because she violated seriously the constitution and the law. She is imprisoned now in the detention house.


As everybody knows, she is a daughter of ex-President Park Chung-hee, who   was president from 1963 to 1979. He seized power by a military coup and adopted a strong policy toward the economic development of Korea. The evaluation on his presidency, however, is divided into two.  One is that he was “a great leader” who built the foundation of the present Korean economy having guided Korea to economic miracle from the poor Korea, which had been suffering from the Korean War following after the colonial rule.  It may be an extreme example that there are people who deify and worship him celebrating his birthday as a festival.  On the other hand, he is considered a dictator who kept his post for a long time and having removed his opponents cruelly.  People should review that era and move on, because the present issues in Korean politics, economy and society, to a certain degree, come from the faults of the dictatorship of Park Chung-hee.


It is said that a view for Park Chung-hee is a standard for distinguishing between reformists and conservatives.  Park Geun-hye, despite her little success as a politician, won her presidency by the overwhelming support of the conservatives due largely to her father’s prestige. In addition to this, in the slowdown of the Korean economy these several years, people felt a longing for the time of Park Chung-hee when the Korean economy made a great quantitative progress. Such feelings might have affected Park Geun-hye, who claimed the rebuilding of Korean economy during her presidency.


On the contrary, during the time of Park Geun-hye, people had a difficult time.

Especially, the so-called “Sampo Generation” (three generations of giving-up courtship, marriage and children) became miserable in their life. University students could not indulge in courtship as they had to study for finding jobs. And, even after getting jobs, they could not get married, which cost much and their salaries are not enough for this purpose.  Even if they get married, the couple have to work together for a living (double harness) and have to give up having children because child rearing and education cost much. The words “Sampo generation” appeared around the year 2011, the time of President Lee Myung-bak. The situation of the young, which this new words represent, was getting worse. The minimum wage by the hour in 2017 is Won 6,470 (about Yen 650).  The average lunch price is about Won 6,500. This means that the young worker barely ekes out lunch by working for one hour at convenience stores, etc..


Not only the young but also the most people were disappointed with the government of Park Geun-hye, which showed incapability to guard the lives of the Korean people, as in the case of the “Sinking of MV Sewol” or the outbreak of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in addition to the seriousness of difficulties of living. And, the political scandal of “the Choi Soon-sil–Gate” proved to be the trigger of the impeachment of the president.


The Korean people who endured their hardships (not only the people who have never supported Park Geun-hye before, but also those who regret having supported Park) voted this time for Moon Jae-in, who appealed for “burying the past abuse”. Moon’s victory this time signifies a lot.  It is not a simple regime change.

It is more a voice of reform against dictatorial presidency which became clear by the impeachment of the former president Park Geun-hye; against the prosecution who pander to the authority; and against collusion between the government and the big businesses. It is also a voice for easing the present economic inequality and consideration for the weak. 


SGRA Kawaraban 535 in Japanese (original)


Kim Yullee (2015 Raccoon) /Ewha Womans University (Korea), Finished Ph. D program without a Ph. D degree, Graduate School of Humanities and Sociology, The University of Tokyo in 2015



Translated by Kazuo Kawamura

English checked by Mac Maquito