Daejeon (AsiaNews) - The election of conservative Park Geun-hye at the helm of South Korea "is one of the many signs of how God's love and thought are inscrutable. Her victory has not convinced many people, but we cannot do more than entrust ourselves to God and pray that the new president elect does her best for the country and the people," said Mgr You Heung-sik, bishop of Daejeon. The prelate, who is also president of the Episcopal Commission for the care of migrants, spoke to AsiaNews about yesterday's elections.
After a tight race, the conservative candidate won 51.6 per cent of the vote against 48 per cent of the Democratic United Party candidate, Moon Jae-in. The Catholic Church had come out in favour of the latter whose campaign was based on helping the middle class and economic democratisation in a country where the gap between rich and poor is getting wider. Ms Park focused instead on supporting the "basic engines of the economy," i.e. big companies, which gave her crucial support.
The vote, Mgr You said, "shows two distinct social groups in Korea. On the one hand, we have the elderly, who fear progressives especially in relation to North Korea, and corporations, which are concerned about the redistribution of wealth; on the other, we have young people, who are in favour of dialogue with Pyongyang, and small and medium-size companies who have low profits but employ millions of people.
Park's "Saenuri Party includes almost all government officials of the past five years. Corporate money and various newspapers and TV networks funded the party. Conservatives are more powerful and can influence financial markets. They do not want to lose what they have gained."
International media have focused on two relatively insignificant aspects of the election: the fact that Park is the first woman president and that South Korea appears to have forgiven the dictatorship of her father, General Park Chung-hee.
A Catholic source told AsiaNews that "neither is accurate. Gender discrimination in Korea is widespread, especially against women who want to keep their job when they get pregnant. Park is single."
On the past, it is even less accurate. If the country had forgiven General Park, the election campaign would not have seen so many veiled attacks against the conservative candidate over what her family had done to South Korea. When he was a dictator, Park was backed by half of the population."
Media agree with this view. Election results show an absolute truth, that the "country is divided," writes Hankyoreh. "It would be hypocritical or crazy not to take that into account in the upcoming mandate. It is impossible to be winners when half of the population picked somebody else. If Park wants to start on the right foot, she must start with national unity."
For the conservative daily Chosun Ilbo, "it is time for the president elect to keep her promises. With her mandate, conservatives will have been in power for ten years. But this time, they risk a lot. The Lee presidency was disappointing. Now Park has to show that we are not serfs of financial markets."
A Catholic who works for the government spoke anonymously to AsiaNews, saying that Park "must really listen to others, not the way she has done so far. She must have aides who are not the expression of a single party. Otherwise, she'll be reproached for the kind of authoritarian rule she was blamed for during her career. She should not become a small dictator, even a democratic one.