Foreign envoys hungry for presidential election information
Foreign envoys here can’t seem to get enough of news about the prospects for the Dec. 19 presidential election.
Last week, British Ambassador Scott Wightman invited two Korea Times reporters to the embassy in Seoul for a meeting. During the one-hour meeting, Wightman’s questions were mainly about who would win.
As part of the discussion, Ambassador Wightman asked whether Ahn Cheol-soo, software-mogul-turned professor, would run in the race, and if he did how high were the chances of his winning.
“We’re closely following the primary campaigns and elections with great interest,” he said. “Korea has vital role in the region and globally, so the future policy directions of the next president and their administration are of huge interest to Britain. Therefore we are keen to learn as much as possible about the candidates’ policies as they emerge.”
The meeting with the British ambassador came three days after The Korea Times had similar discussion with Indian Ambassador Vishnu Prakash.
The envoy queried the reporters regarding the presidential election and major contenders.
Fabrice Leggeri, first counselor and deputy head of mission of the French Embassy in Seoul, said election monitoring is one of the key jobs that diplomats do these days.
The French diplomat said he is observing the December presidential election with great interest because Korea is a developed country with a dynamic economy.
“There are a wide range of challenges to be addressed by the candidates and the country has as many issues as France has. This is very interesting for diplomats,” he said.
Leggeri said the ongoing campaign reminded him of the presidential race held in France months ago, saying he saw a lot of similarities between them.
The complex and unpredictable nature of politics here prompts foreign diplomats to increase contacts with journalists and those who are in the political circle to get more information about the presidential election.
The two key issues drawing their attention are Ahn’s electability if he joins the race, and whether or not Rep. Park Geun-hye of the ruling Saenuri Party might become the first female president of this country.
Unlike Rep. Park, Ahn is a relatively lesser known figure to people in the diplomatic circle.
They are scratching their heads after observing that the popularity of Ahn, the Seoul National University professor, shows few signs of fading, despite ambiguity on his presidential bid.
Ahn has yet to announce whether he will run for the presidency, although the founder of the computer virus vaccine provider AhnLab has acted like a presidential candidate, meeting voters of all socio-economic classes on a nationwide tour.
Some foreign envoys said they cannot understand the lasting popularity of Ahn despite his ambiguity.
“Is this acceptable for Koreans?” asked a diplomat, who asked not to be named because he didn’t want to cause a trouble in bilateral relations due to his frank, personal opinion on the potential presidential contender.