In 1985, Sim Sang-jung was on the run from the law. She was one of the country’s most wanted, for leading labour strikes. In her 20’s she moved from factory to factor, earning enough to scrape by and encouraging her coworkers to demand better wages and treatment. She was eventually caught in 1993 and sentenced to two years probation.
Now Sim is trying to outrun her Democratic Party challengers. Her seat in Gyeonggi province is one of the Minjoo Dang’s most wanted. Sim has represented the city of 1 million just to the northwest of Seoul since 2012, the same year she founded the United Progressive Party. After the UPP was disbanded when courts ruled it violated the law against being pro-North Korean, she helped found the Justice Party. In 2016, she won by 16 points, with the Democratic Party only taking 9% of the vote.
While she only got 6% of the vote in the 2017 presidential election, she did make a big impact at debates with her fierce challenges to the major party candidates.
A new poll conducted by KBS and the Korea Research shows Sim with just a 1 point lead over Democratic nominee Moon Myeong-suk. Sim takes 34.5% of the vote to Moon’s 33.5%, while UFP nominee Lee Gyeong-hwan is down at 20.7%.
Moon is a former executive at KB Bank for three decades and a leader of the financial industry labour union. A labour activist of a different sort, you might say. A banker vs a soft socialist.
Sim is experienced at surviving close choses. Once when she was running from the police in the 1990’s, she jumped a rooftop. Will she be able to hold on this time? This race will be one to watch.
As for its implications for control of the Assembly, the Justice Party, which is more leftist than the Democratic Party, typically supports the Democratic Party on key bills, but they require the Democrats to compromise on some. The Democratic Party currently only holds a plurality with its own members. So the Democrats could get closer to a majority by winning seats currently held by minor parties. In the Jeolla provinces, for example, the Democratic Party looks poised to gain many seats held by former People’s Party representatives.