A far-left candidate polling at around one per cent in South Korea’s presidential candidate stole the campaign’s first TV debate with a scathing attack on conservative front-runner Park Geun-hye.
While Tuesday night’s event had been hyped as a chance for the main opposition candidate Moon Jae-in to close Park’s narrow poll lead, it was Lee Jung-hee of the United Progressive Party who made all the running.
With no hope of winning the December 19, Lee was refreshingly unequivocal about why she was bothering to run at all.
“I’m here to take down candidate Park Geun-hye,” she said during the debate, adding that the best political reform for South Korea would be the disappearance of Park’s ruling New Frontier Party.
Lee made no attempt to hide her personal antipathy for Park – the daughter of South Korea’s late military strongman Park Chung-hee – who at times appeared quite rattled by the vehemence of the attacks.
Park’s leadership style is one of “arrogance and self-righteousness”, Lee said, adding that Park would become a “dictatorial queen” if she were elected.
Lee’s party is seen by many as pro-North Korean and her debate performance is unlikely to have much impact – either on her own showing at the ballot box or on Park’s supporters.
But it was the talk of Korean social networks after the debate and analysts said it may have damaged Moon, who came across as ineffective by comparison.