Meet Taiwan’s ‘Ivanka’


The Han tide: The outsider politician won the Kaohsiung seat after voters fell in love with his daughter Coco on social media. — Facebook

The Han tide: The outsider politician won the Kaohsiung seat after voters fell in love with his daughter Coco on social media. — Facebook

FROM Kuomintang outsider to the man who broke the Democratic Progressive Party’s grip of more than two decades on Kaohsiung, new mayor Han Kuo-yu is enjoying the spotlight and he owes much to his social media-savvy daughter, Coco Han, for that success.

Coco, a 23-year-old senior university student who majored in sociology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, campaigned for her father on the streets and behind the scenes, prompting some to draw parallels with Ivanka Trump’s role in helping her father, Donald, to the US presidency.

Coco managed social media accounts for her father’s election campaign and, when Han’s victory was declared at the weekend, she said she would “lend my father to Kaohsiung”.

“I finally got to sleep for eight hours,” she said after the polls.

“I will go back to continue my studies and hope Han will work hard, and not disappoint people’s expectations of him.”

Kaohsiung was a traditional stronghold for the DPP, which was chaired by the self-ruled island’s pro-independence President Tsai Ing-wen before the election.

Han, who vowed to make the city rich enough to stop young people from going to Taipei for jobs, became a figurehead for the defeat of the DPP.

The 61-year-old was reportedly inspired to re-enter politics by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s success in Malaysia to toppling the previous Barisan Nasional government in May.

“If a 93-year-old politician can create a miracle on May 9 by ousting a corrupt regime that had ruled Malaysia for 61 years, nothing is impossible in politics,” Han was quoted as saying amid the scepticism greeting his decision to contest in the tough Kaohsiung city seat.

His campaign promise to revitalise the economy, maintain integrity and no bribery rapidly captured the hearts of the voters.

During the election campaign, Coco was busy like her father, visiting and shaking hands with Kaohsiung residents from street to street, attending television shows, answering questions from reporters, building her father’s social media campaign and winning over supporters.

Coco built a digital team whose members were, on average, 23 years of age.

They fostered an affable, avuncular image of their candidate for consumers of smartphone politics and sold his policies – hard.

Han’s followers on Line, Taiwan’s most popular instant messaging app, increased to more than 140,000, surpassing Tsai’s following in a matter of weeks.

Coco also managed her father’s live feeds to prospective voters and replied to messages on Facebook, taking Han closer to as many people, especially young voters, as she possibly could.

In Han’s campaign rally, a short video message from his wife, Li Chia-fen, said: “You (Han) are the real hero in my eyes and to our children regardless of the election outcome.” It moved many to tears and it was their daughter’s idea.

Coco’s personality also helped bring Han more followers.

In May last year, when Han joined the race to run for KMT chairman, father and daughter appeared on television together.

“Will you dislike me if I fail?” Han asked his daughter.

“No, Daddy,” she replied. “I will raise you.”

That warm response touched the hearts of many people and the video went viral on the internet after “Han tide” swept Taiwan. —South China Morning Post

Politics , Taiwan elections