Park Clashes With Moon Over South Korea Economy Before Election

South Korea’s main opposition presidential candidate accused front-runner Park Geun Hye of failing to take responsibility for her ruling party’s oversight of an economy hindered by slowing growth and rising inflation.

In the second of three debates before the Dec. 19 election, the Democratic United Party’s Moon Jae In said today the administration of outgoing President Lee Myung Bak had failed to fulfill its economic pledges.

“Everything, including economic growth, balanced regional development, inter-Korean relations, democracy and national security, has fallen apart while household debt and inflation rose,” Moon said in the televised debate in Seoul. Park in turned blamed the “ill-designed policies” of Lee’s predecessor Roh Moo Hyun, whom Moon served under as chief of staff.

While Lee’s popularity has fallen by more than half amid public discontent with growing inflation and a widening income gap, Park has maintained her lead in the polls to govern Asia’s fourth biggest economy. The daughter of former dictator Park Chung Hee is attempting to become South Korea’s first-ever female president.

Today’s debate took place as North Korea extended its time frame for a rocket launch this month. Both Moon and Park have pledged to re-engage with Kim Jong Un’s totalitarian state, rejecting Lee’s isolationist stance, regardless of whether North Korea fires the rocket in defiance of international pressure.

Park’s approval rating was at 50.6 percent while support for Moon stood at 43.8 percent, according to a daily poll published today by Realmeter and JTBC, a cable television affiliate of the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper. The Dec. 8-9 survey of 2,000 people had a 2.2 percentage-point margin of error.

South Korea is unlikely to meet the central bank’s growth estimate of 2.4 percent for this year, Bank of Korea Director Jung Yung Taek told reporters in Seoul on Dec. 6. While there are signs of improvement, with exports rising the most in nine months from a year earlier in November, Jung said the expansion will “not be strong” in the fourth quarter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Sangwon Yoon in Seoul at syoon32@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Peter Hirschberg at phirschberg@bloomberg.net

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