The lineup of primary winners is being finalized.
The field for the presidential race is expected to narrow down to four major candidates: Moon Jae-in, Ahn Cheol-soo, Hong Joon-pyo and Yoo Seong-min.
Moon, the former leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, solidified his status as the most likely nominee of the party by earning 60.2 percent of votes in North and South Jeolla Provinces.
Ahn, ex-chairman of the People’s Party, practically secured the nomination with 64.6 percent of primary votes in the Jeolla provinces and 74.49 percent in South Gyeongsang Province.
Yoo claimed the Bareun Party nomination Tuesday.
South Gyeongsang Province Gov. Hong is favored to claim the Liberty Korea Party nomination Friday.
Moon is way ahead of the other three candidates, and appears certain to win.
According to the latest poll, he enjoys a comfortable lead with 34.4 percent support, trailed by Ahn with 12.6 percent, Hong at 9.5 percent and Yoo at 2.2 percent.
Moon’s primary rivals, South Chungcheong Province Gov. An Hee-jung and Seongnam Mayor Lee Jae-myung, won 17.1 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively.
If Moon is confirmed as the primary winner of the Democratic Party as expected, he will be the closest to the Blue House.
However, it is too early for him to feel at ease. The tide may turn against him if Ahn, Hong and Yoo unite to make a four-way contest a one-to-one fixture, pitting Moon against a single candidate. The Bareun Party is sounding out the Liberty Korea Party on an alliance.
If the three unite, the electorate will face a choice between a leftist liberal and a centrist or rightist conservative, depending on who will be the single candidate. If all of those who support anything but Moon stand by the single candidate, he may face an uphill battle.
The problem is whether Ahn, Hong and Yoo will choose the option of a unified ticket. For now, it appears far from reality. Ahn has dismissed the possibility of teaming up with the two conservative parties, saying he would run to the end and that voters will have to choose between him and Moon eventually. Ahn and the centrist People’s Party have kept their distance from the Liberty Korea Party, former President Park Geun-hye’s party, but if uniting against Moon becomes inevitable, the two sides may strike a deal.
For Moon, who is the steadfast front-runner, the main round of competition for the presidency is now about to kick off.
Moon gained a lot from surge in anti-conservative sentiment due to the corruption scandal involving Park and the impeachment of her. While conservative presidential hopefuls have witnessed their popularity plummet, he has seen his approval rating soar as a politician standing completely opposite to Park. Antipathy to Park runs high after her removal from office and the conservative camp is disjointed. He is sailing before a fair wind.
But Moon needs to know many voters feel uneasy about his view of national security issues. He said he would push for parliamentary ratification of the deployment of a US missile shield, reopen a joint South and North Korean industrial park in North Korea and resume a North Korean mountain tour. The pledges appear out of touch with reality.
He has prioritized the cleanup of accumulated evils of conservative governments. There is criticism that his campaign rhetoric sounds revolutionary and vindictive. South Chungcheong Province Gov. An once said, “Moon tends to think dichotomously, classify things into good versus evil.”
Attention is on whether a single candidate will emerge to take on Moon. He needs to think deeply about why people dislike him as well as why people like him. The next leader should move the nation from anger to integration, from division to unity and from the past to the future.
Moon should show his ability to lead all of Korea’s people.