Liberal Moon Jae-in elected as South Korea’s 19th president

2017.05.10 00:37:26 | 2017.05.10 17:16:24

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Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party overwhelmingly won Tuesday’s election, becoming the 19th president nine months ahead of the original calendar and benefiting from the fall of former President Park Geun-hye to whom he had lost by a narrow margin in the last election.

Moon secured 13,423,800 votes, or 41.1 percent and maintained 17.1 percentage point lead over runner-up Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberal Korea Party (former ruling party) who had won 24.0 percent, or 7,852,849 votes. Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party gained 21.4 percent.

Despite unusually high level of undecided voters due to split in the conservative camp and tight election schedule, turnout was exceptionally high at 77.2 percent. In the last election on Dec. 19, 2012, the turnout was 75.8 percent with Park beating Moon by 51.8 percent versus 48 percent.

Moon had kept a comfortable lead throughout the pre-campaign polls and race as he was helped by the scandal and fall of Park and subsequent breakup of the conservative front.

The latest presidential election was pulled up to May after the country’s Constitutional Court on March 10 upheld legislative motion and dismissed the country’s first female president from office before termination of her tenure over corruption and power abuse scandal involving her confidante Choi Soon-sil.

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Until September last year, Moon was behind former United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon in opinion polls for the presidential election. However, he managed to win public support after the Choi scandal broke out and Park was impeached. Since Ban dropped out of the presidential race in February, Moon has maintained the lead in opinion polls.

Moon’s victory has led the country’s liberal camp to regain control of the government 10 years after conservative entrepreneur-turned-politician Lee Myung-bak was elected as the country’s 17th president in 2007. Before Lee, liberals Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun served as head of state in a row. President-elect Moon was the chief of staff and senior presidential secretary for civil affairs to late president Roh.

Moon Jae-in and former President Roh Moo-hyun이미지 확대

Moon Jae-in and former President Roh Moo-hyun

Moon, born in Geoje, South Gyeongsang, in 1953, was not a typically well-behaved student. He started drinking and smoking in his adolescent years and was suspended four times while attending Gyeongnam Middle School and Kyungnam High School. After he became a law student at Kyung Hee University, he was expelled from school for leading a student protest against the Yushin regime of President Park Chung Hee who ruled the country with an iron fist between 1961 and 1979 after seizing power in a coup and also the father of the ousted former president Park Geun-hye. After serving the military, Moon passed the judicial exam and began his career as an attorney in Busan where he met former president Roh Moo-hyun and worked together as human rights attorneys. When Roh became the country’s president, Moon took key roles in the presidential office.

This was Moon’s second attempt to bid for the country’s presidential election. Moon competed against now-disgraced former President Park in the 18th presidential election but lost to her by a narrow margin. In 2015, Moon was elected as the leader of New Politics Alliance for Democracy, current Democratic Party, and emerged as a presidential candidate representing the opposition circle.

By Shin Heon-cheol

[ⓒ Pulse by Maeil Business Newspaper & mk.co.kr, All rights reserved]