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Park's Recreation

How South Korea's Conservative Candidate Saved Her Party

Park Geun-hye campaigns in Seoul. (Lee Jae Won / Courtesy Reuters)

On December 19, South Koreans will choose their next president, and most polls point to a narrow victory for Park Geun-hye, of the conservative New Frontier Party, over Moon Jae-in, of the liberal Democratic United Party (DUP). After a third, unaffiliated liberal candidate, Ahn Cheol-soo, dropped out of the race in late November, the contest became a traditional right versus left, two-party showdown. (South Korea frequently has major third-party presidential candidates, so this is unusual.) But the election will be close. This should be the left's year to win, given that the approval rating of the current president, the conservative Lee Myung-bak, languishes at 20 percent. Still, Park has run a moderate campaign, distancing herself from some of the tougher positions of the Lee administration on both foreign and domestic policy. South Korea may be tilting leftward, but the left may have

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