I was asked for my thoughts on the coming Presidential election in South Korea by the most followed futurist site. So I thought why not take a view…
All eyes around the world were on the Korean Peninsula this weekend as the epicentre of a clash of great powers comes to a head. But at this sensitive time for national security, it must be worrying for its citizens that there is literally no leadership in South Korea after the impeachment of President Park.
I suspect the Ahn Cheol Soo will be elected as the next President of South Korea next month. I say this as a global futurist with an interest in Korea but not as a Korean expert. In the last 18 months we have predicted a number of political events including Brexit, the election of Donald Trump and referenda in Scotland and Italy. But in most of these instances we had proprietary methodologies. This is not the case Korea; but my conclusion is the result of looking at global forces, having some knowledge of the situation on the ground and talking to insightful people in Korea, along with a healthy dose of intuition of course.
The general context is that we are living in a world of disillusion with politicians and our old institutions. The world has become increasingly complex with the exponential rise in population and connectivity and many unintended consequences are emerging. Our systems and institutions are failing. One of the biggest ramifications is economic hardship and wealth disparity. The problems of the Great Financial Crisis have not be resolved so it was inevitable that we would face social and political upheaval, and eventually another global financial crisis. This is a global phenomenon. Governments around the world have been destabilising. Brazil had a Presidential crisis in 2015, Donald Trump was voted in to the White House, the UK voted to leave the EU, and France has a controversial election around the corner. We are in a “World in Disarray”,as per the book written by Richard Haas, President of the Council of Foreign Relations.
This is not a time in which traditional politicians do well. Some might call this populism? I would merely say that people want fresh ideas. And failing that, they are happy to take a risk on controversial figures if they represent change.
The Korean economy has been built on global exports but the global economy is in a precarious state. In the past 2 years, Korean exports have come under a lot of pressure. Furthermore, Korea’s industrial portfolio is quickly become antiquated with its reliance on industries such as steel, DRAMs, autos, shipbuilding and shipping. How will Korea fare as we enter the world of the Fourth Industrial revolution? Korea appears to be no where on the league tables when it comes to some key new industries such as artificial intelligence.
Lastly, like many other country the social mood is one of discord. Trust has been falling between the generations. The younger generations feel that they have inherited a country with failing ideas and are becoming fed up with the rigorous Confucian hierarchy. The sinking of the Sewol ferry saw these frustrations intensify.
Against this backdrop, the global and national mood of South Korea is not consistent with the election of a career politician like Moon Jae In, who was Chief of Staff for Roh Moo-hyun.
In the past few weeks – unsurprising to us – Ahn’s ratings have been going up. Koreans love an underdog, and in this is a very interesting phenomenon with only weeks to go before the election.
In terms of the immediate national security issues, Ahn might be seen as a better choice. Some voters are worried about a return to the Sunshine policies of just giving investment to North Korea with nothing in return. Initially Ahn opposed the deployment of THAAD but he might have brought back conservative voters by saying that this cannot be renegotiated now.
In addition to Korea-China relations so bad at the moment, there are fears that Trump will overlook South Korea. Perhaps some will think that Ahn might be able to forge better ties with Trump. Even if Ahn cannot rely on the fact that they are both Wharton alunmi, he is slightly more aligned politically than Moon. And like Trump he is a successful businessman. Many Koreans are impressed by him toiling away as a medical student to build Ahn Labs. Trump has hit it off with many Asian businessmen that have passed through to see him from Softank뭩 Masatoshi Son to Albibaba’s Jack Ma.
Ahn says that we wants to encourage entrepreneurship to create jobs and economic growth, and has been talking about more start up companies and incubators. He has also suggested paying a subsidy to those young new graduates who are employed by small and medium sized companies and don’t go to work for the Chaebol. Moon’s idea of hiding 800,000 more government workers, however, might feel quite uninspiring in this time of technological revolution.
The conservatives seem to be in disarray, and it seems that conservative voters are more likely to align themselves with the former businessman Ahn than the left wing Moon. In fact in recent days, Ahn seems to have recruited some conservative staffers and also members of the Ban Ki Moon camp.
Korea truly needs leadership and fresh ideas at this critical time. It is too early to say whether Ahn will rise to be a strong and wise leader. But perhaps voters will hope that Ahn will have the fresher ideas; as a science fiction fan, perhaps he might have the imagination that Korea dearly needs.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Indaily editors or any person working in the Internet newspaper Indaily. 여기에 표현된 관점이나 의견은 인데일리 신문이나 관련 종사자의 관점이나 의견을 표방하거나 반영하는 것은 아님을 알려드립니다.
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