Having lost to Park Geun-hye in the 2012 presidential election, liberal Moon Jae-in is poised to become the new South Korea president according to an exit poll from today's South Korean election, according to which Moon was estimated to have collected 41.4% of all votes. The front-runner was followed by Hong Joon-pyo of the conservative Liberty Korea Party with 23.3% . Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party came in third with 21.8%.
Moon Jae-in and his wife Kim Jung-sook
North Korea has indicated that Moon is its favored candidate, with state media recently calling on South Korean voters to “punish the puppet group of conservatives” associated with Park.
The son of North Korean refugees, Moon criticized the early installation of a U.S. missile shield on South Korean soil and has said he’d meet with Kim Jong Un under the right circumstances.
As Bloomberg observes, the left-leaning Moon has long led opinion polls in an election triggered by the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, who was ousted in March and is now in jail while on trial for corruption charges. He has pledged a softer touch with North Korea and tougher action against family-run conglomerates that dominate Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.
After casting his vote on Tuesday, Moon issued a call for unity. “I myself will be the first to make such efforts by embracing other candidates and their parties for harmony,” he said. “I hope the people do what they can do until the end of the election but come back as one after the election for the nation’s unity."
Moon's expected victory is perhaps most notable because Moon’s expected victory could herald an era of rapprochement with North Korea, and an unlikely meeting of minds with Donald Trump over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. "We are a target': South Korean village wakes up on frontline with North. The 64-year-old liberal has positioned himself as the only candidate qualified to reunite the country after the bitter divisions that opened up over that Park’s allegedly corrupt relationship with her longtime friend and confidante Choi Soon-sil.
A brief profile on the country's new president from the Guardian:
While Park sits in detention awaiting trial on charges that could lead to her being sentenced to life in prison, Moon has tapped into the country’s appetite for change to open up a double-digit lead over his closest rival, the centrist software entrepreneur Ahn Cheol-soo. In a month of rising tensions on the Korean peninsula over Pyongyang’s nuclear and ballistic missile programmes, Moon has criticised the hard line pursued by Park and her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, pointing out that a decade of conservative rule had done nothing to arrest the regime’s nuclear programme.
Eager to court the older conservative voters who consigned him to a narrow defeat five years ago, Moon has shown himself to be a pragmatist. He has stopped short of overtly criticising Trump’s aggressive tone during the most recent crisis on the Korean peninsula, and has declared that he and the US president are “on the same page” in regarding the Obama administration’s policy of “strategic patience” as a failure.
Working-level “talks about talks” with North Korea are a possibility, according to Moon’s foreign policy adviser, but, like Trump, the candidate has so far ruled out a summit with Kim Jong-un unless the regime commits to abandoning its nuclear ambitions.
Although Moon was critical of Washington’s “undemocratic” rush to deploy its missile defence system in a South Korean village late last month, he has said only that he would “review” its future if elected president. He also supports the reopening of the Kaesong industrial complex, a joint North-South project that was regarded as a symbol of cross-border cooperation until it was “temporarily” closed in early 2016.
Given the speculation that North Korea could be preparing to conduct its sixth nuclear test in just over a decade – a move that the White House has hinted could invite military retaliation – it is easy to forget that Tuesday’s vote, called seven months early, was initially prompted by issues closer to home.
Moon has promised to reform South Korea’s family-run conglomerates – or chaebol – whose shady ties to senior politicians were exposed by the Park scandal, and to address pressing domestic problems such as rising inequality and youth unemployment.
The eldest son of a refugee from North Korea, Moon can claim to have played a role in significant moments in South Korea’s modern history.
After a career as a human rights lawyer, he served as chief of staff to the then president Roh Moo-hyun, whose pursuit of his predecessor Kim Dae-jung’s “sunshine policy” of engagement with Pyongyang Moon hopes to emulate – this time as South Korea’s leader.
Since Moon’s stance on North Korea could put him at odds with U.S. President Donald Trump, who has stressed that he could take military action to halt the isolated nation’s nuclear ambitions, this may be another potential diplomatic fiasco in the making. Meanwhile, at home Bloomberg adds that Moon faces the task of healing a nation which is still reeling from the graft probe that culminated in Park’s arrest in March after months of street protests. He is expected to add fiscal stimulus to create jobs for disaffected youth and bolster an economy forecast to expand this year at the slowest pace since 2012.
If Moon's is confirmed, Moon will be sworn in on Wednesday after the release of the official result. Most candidates, including Moon and Ahn, have said they would skip a lavish inauguration ceremony and start work straight away.
The new leader is expected to quickly name a prime minister, who will need parliamentary approval, and main cabinet positions, including national security and finance ministers, which do not need parliamentary confirmation.