WSJ Polls on Park Draw Strong Response
- South Korean President Park Geun-hye looks around the site where the Sewol ferry sank and rescue operations are taking place, from a ship in the sea off Jindo, April 17, 2014. Reuters
Even before Monday, when South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the actions of the captain and crew of the capsized Sewol “tantamount to murder,” there was plenty of criticism that the government had fumbled its rescue efforts for the 476 people aboard the passenger ferry.
Last Thursday, when Ms. Park visited the gymnasium in Jindo where many of the victims’ families have gathered, she was heckled for the government’s sluggish response, and the lack of reliable information that authorities were disseminating to the public.
Since her visit last Thursday, no survivors have been rescued from the submerged vessel. What did become clear over the weekend was that most of the ship’s crew had survived, and that the captain Lee Jun-seok was among the first to make it to shore.
So with Monday’s remarks, was Ms. Park seeking to channel the public’s rage — or deflect the blame onto the captain and crew? Either way, her “tantamount to murder” comment has raised the stakes — and the temperature — among both her political supporters and detractors.
In both languages, the same question was asked: Was President Park right to call the actions of the captain and crew of the sunken passenger ferry “tantamount to murder”? And on both websites, the answer was a clear “no” — namely, that Ms. Park wasn’t right to use that language.
In our English poll, where just over 4,000 votes had been recorded as of late afternoon on Wednesday, about two-thirds of the votes disagreed with Ms. Park, while in Korean, 87% of the roughly 2,600 votes sided against Ms. Park.
In Korean, the poll went further, asking respondents who answered “no” to pick a reason. There, about two-thirds of the “no” respondents picked the option that indicated they thought Ms. Park made the remarks because she was attempting to divert blame aimed at officials.
Only 15% of objectors to Ms. Park’s remarks in our Korean-language poll picked the option that indicated they thought her remarks would prejudice the legal process for the captain and crew.
To be sure, the two polls aren’t scientifically rigorous. They are, after all, online polls. People could have voted multiple times, on multiple devices. Quibbles can be made (they always can be) about the wording of the questions, and multiple choice answers. And the poll results saw sharp swings throughout the day on Tuesday — as pro- and anti-Park voters seemed to push the outcome one way or the other.
Does it mean anything conclusive? Well, no. But factoring in the heated debate in the comments section of the English poll as well perhaps it does show that partisanship in South Korea has reached a fever pitch.
It doesn’t appear that’ll die down any time soon.
By JONATHAN CHENG, WSJ