Any way you cut it, Donald Trump isn’t doing well in the eyes of South Koreans. After the town-hall style second presidential debate between him and Hillary Clinton, both progressive and conservative media agencies here in Korea landed similar verdicts, which is that Trump’s shambolic and embarrassing campaign is full of cracks and steam is shooting out of every one.
The centre-left newspaper Hankyoreh said Trump is turning the election into a mudslinging match while Clinton is displaying an “atmosphere of civility”. Meanwhile, the centre-right JoongAng Ilbo ran a piece, published during the debate, which focused on the Republican response to the leaked video tape of Trump’s disparaging comments on women.
“Republicans are badly shaken,” it said, noting that they have expressed “support for Trump’s withdrawal.”
The progressive Dong-A Ilbo compared Trump’s navel-gazing “America first” politics with Clinton’s hopeful “enthusiasm effect”, while the conservative Chosun Ilbo’s New York correspondent Gim Deok-han bluntly wrote that Trump needs to resign.
The Korea Economic Daily published a piece minutes after the debate ended, calling it the country’s “most obscene presidential debate”, a clear reference to Trump’s litany of indecent remarks, while Newsis ran a fact-checking piece noting Clinton exaggerated once while Trump made five false statements.
There was, however, at least one site that declared the debate a “landslide victory” for Trump and a “huge embarrassment” for Clinton – Ilbe.com, the home site for a misogynistic, racist hate group of the same name.
The question now is, if Trump wins, how will Koreans split the baby in their relations with the United States, their most important ally, if it’s led by a man who says he will abandon their military and economic partnerships?
David Volodzko is the national editor at the Korea JoongAng Daily