Wed, May 10, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Moon Jae-in to be South Korean president: polls

Reuters, SEOUL

South Korean presidential candidate Moon Jae-in, left, poses for a selfie with voters at a polling station in Seoul before casting his ballot for the presidential election.

Photo: EPA

Liberal politician Moon Jae-in yesterday won South Korea’s presidential election, exit polls showed, an expected victory that would end nearly a decade of conservative rule and bring a more conciliatory approach toward North Korea.

A decisive win by Moon, with more than 40 percent of votes in a field of 13 candidates, would end months of political turmoil stemming from a parliamentary vote in December last year to impeach former South Korean president Park Geun-hye over an extensive corruption scandal.

The South Korean Constitutional Court upheld her impeachment in March, making her the nation’s first democratically elected leader to be removed from office and triggering a snap election to choose her successor.

Wearing a dark blue suit and blue tie, Moon was seen shaking hands with supporters and party officials, and smiling on his way to a meeting of his Democratic Party after the exit poll results were announced.

“We will need to calmly wait and see as this was just exit polls, but if things go on this way and we win, today’s victory is thanks to sheer desperation of the people who wanted a regime change,” he told party members. “We will accomplish the two tasks given to us, reform and national unity, that the people of this country desire.”

Moon, 64, was beating his conservative challenger, former prosecutor Hong Joon-pyo, by 41.4 percent to 23.3 percent of the vote, exit polls conducted jointly by three network TV stations showed.

A Gallup Korea poll last week showed Moon had 38 percent support in a field of 13 candidates.

Moon is expected to be sworn in today after the South Korean National Election Commission releases the official result. He has said he would skip a lavish inauguration ceremony and start work straight away.

He is likely to quickly name a prime minister, who will need parliamentary approval, and his main Cabinet positions, including national security and finance ministers, which do not need parliamentary confirmation.

Moon, who narrowly lost to Park in the previous presidential election in 2012, favors dialogue with North Korea to ease rising tension over its accelerating nuclear and missile programs. He also wants to reform powerful family-run conglomerates, such as Samsung Group and Hyundai Group, and boost fiscal spending to create jobs.

Moon has criticized the two former conservative governments for failing to stop North Korea’s weapons development. He advocates a two-track policy of dialogue while maintaining pressure and sanctions to encourage change.

Moon faces working with a fractured parliament where his Democratic Party holds 40 percent of the single chamber, 299-seat assembly, which will likely mean difficulties and deals to pass bills.

“He has to pursue cooperation with other liberal and centrist parties, since the Democratic Party does not have a majority,” Korea Academy of Politics and Leadership head Kim Man-heum said. “Moon has been criticized for running his own ‘clique,’ so in order to get over that negative image, he’ll seek cooperation to avoid rifts and conflicts.”

His victory was bolstered by strong support from younger people, the majority of whom voted for him, according to the exit polls.

Moon, whose campaign promises include a “National Interest First” policy, has struck a chord with people who want the nation to stand up to powerful allies and neighbors.

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