London Olympics may force ruling party to reschedule primaries
By Kang Hyun-kyung
The overlapping of the Summer Olympics slated for July 27 through Aug. 12 in London and the ruling party primary is prompting senior Saenuri Party lawmakers to think whether it is needed to tinker with their schedule.
The party rules stipulate it has to select its presidential candidate no later than Aug. 21.This will make it inevitable that the primary, which takes place in the preceding weeks before the winner is selected, draws a lot less public attention from citizens because people would be engrossed in the London Games.
Some party officials told The Korea Times that the ruling party could consider the rescheduling of the primary after the Olympics.
Rep. Chung Woo-taik said that the Supreme Council members or the primary team, which was launched on Monday, will soon likely discuss the issue. Chung is one of the six members of the decision-making council.
“I think the Supreme Council is the right body to bring up the issue because delaying the primary will require us to rewrite our platform. If this is done, we then need to get approval from our party members about the new deadline,” he said.
“Even though we agree to delay the contest, I think the new deadline shouldn’t be like October or November as some contenders suggested. They are trying to delay the primary deadline as late as they can because they want to buy time to build their support base.”
Rep. Shim Jae-chul, another Supreme Council member, said he believes the primary team would probably recommend the party leadership to consider rescheduling the primary to avoid the situation that the London Olympics steals the show.
Their remarks came a day after Yim Tae-hee, a presidential hopeful, called for the rescheduling of the primary after the Olympics. “I think it is a bad idea for the ruling party to hold the primary at a time when citizens are drawn to the Olympic Games,” the former presidential chief of staff said in an interview.
Drawing public attention to the competition to pick a ruling party presidential candidate is one of the key tactics that will lead up to a successful race.
Therefore, campaign strategists are keen to find out ways to encourage the public to participate and take an interest in the primary.
Previously, the ruling party introduced live debate, a dynamic hearing to screen the qualifications of presidential contenders, and reflected polls in the primary results to make citizens feel that they were part of the contest. They also tried to add some entertainment elements to make the primary successful.
Campaign workers believe the timing of the primary is one of the key elements that can make or break the primary.
If the ruling party sticks with the current schedule, the London Olympics, which will start on July 27 and continue until Aug. 13 when the closing ceremony will take place, will divert public attention from the primary and as a consequence outshine it.
“Olympic madness” has become a phenomenon here over the past decade as South Korean athletes had strong showings in previous Olympics. In 2008, the South Korean team obtained 13 gold, ten silver and eight bronze medals to finish seventh in the overall medal tally.
Athletes’ strong showing in previous Olympics games led to high viewer ratings during the season.
According to AGB Nielson Media Research poll, some 40 percent of Koreans watched the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
During the Olympic season, star athletes, such as Korea’s swimming syndrome Park Tae-hwan, had drawn unrivaled attention from the public.