Cho Kuk’s popularity is rising, but questions remain over continuity

Cho Kuk, the leader of the Rebuilding Korea Party, holds up a  fist while meeting with supporters in Daegu, Thursday. Yonhap

Cho Kuk, the leader of the Rebuilding Korea Party, holds up a fist while meeting with supporters in Daegu, Thursday. Yonhap

By Kwak Yeon-soo

The Rebuilding Korea Party, a new liberal party launched by former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, has emerged as a powerful third-party challenger threatening a match-up between the two major parties in the April 10 general elections, but political analysts remained divided over whether the Cho-fueled political frenzy would last until the end of the elections.

A recent poll conducted by Hankook Research at the request of the Hankook Ilbo, the sister paper of The Korea Times, from March 23 to 26 found that 21 percent of 500 eligible voters in Seoul’s Yeongdeungpo-A constituency were willing to vote for the Rebuilding Korea Party in Korea’s proportional representation voting system.

This marked the largest share, followed by the People Future Party, the ruling People Power Party’s satellite party, at 20 percent and the Democratic United Party, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea’s satellite party, at 13 percent.

The poll also found that the approval rating rating for Cho’s party stood at 21 percent in Busan’s Buk-A and Gyeonggi Province’s Hanam-A constituencies, marking the second-largest share following the People Future Party’s 26 percent and 23 percent, respectively. Each poll surveyed 500 eligible voters selected randomly. The Busan poll was conducted from March 24 to 26, while the Hanam poll took place from March 23 to 26.

Shin Yul, professor of political science at Myongji University, said the biggest supporters of the Rebuilding Korea Party are DPK members disenfranchised by party leader Lee Jae-myung.

“A majority of supporters of the Rebuilding Korea Party are those disappointed at DPK leader Lee. Several polls indicate that Cho’s party has high approval ratings, but we have to wait and see whether they will translate to real votes,” he said.

“I doubt it could successfully appeal to moderate voters to keep the frenzy going until the end of the April elections.”

Graphics by Cho Sang-won

Eom Gyeong-yeong, director of the political think tank the Zeitgeist Institute, said Cho’s party might weaken both major parties because Cho is enjoying strong loyalty among his core supporters.

“The popularity is centered on anti-Lee Jae-myung, [voters in the Joella region] and especially those in their 40s and 50s,” he said. “Now their important issue is whether they can attract younger voters in their 20s and 30s to their side.”

Experts predicted that Cho’s party is likely to win around 10 seats in the 22nd National Assembly. The Rebuilding Korea Party is aiming for at least 10 seats out of 46 up for grabs for the proportional representation race.

“I think Cho’s party will take about seven to eight seats,” Shin said.

Eom said, “A substantial number of DPK supporters may opt for a DPK candidate in their respective electoral districts while choosing Cho’s party in the proportional representation voting. So they can secure around 10 seats.”

He added, “If the hype surrounding the Rebuilding Korea Party continues until the end of the elections, it would be a burden on the ruling PPP.”

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, with a credibility rate of 95 percent. Further details are available on the National Election Survey Deliberation Commission’s website.

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