An opposition leader who used to work as a graft prosecutor has won South Korea’s presidential election, which was extremely close. He has called for a more confrontational stance against North Korea and a stronger alliance with the United States, which has helped conservatives retake control of the country.
As of early Thursday morning, the opposition leader, Yoon Suk-yeol, was ahead by 263,000 votes (0.8 percentage points), with 98 percent of the ballots tabulated. His opponent, Kim Dae-jung, had surrendered the election. It was the closest contest in South Korea’s history, dating back to the country’s first open presidential elections in 1987.
In May, President Moon Jae-in, a progressive leader who has served one five-year term, will step down. Mr. Yoon will take over.
The election was largely seen as a referendum on Mr. Moon’s administration.. Voters were enraged by the government’s inability to rein on soaring house costs. In addition, the #MeToo movement and corruption scandals involving Mr. Moon’s political supporters, as well as a lack of progress in dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme, contributed to Mr. Moon’s downfall.
However, as the close results shown, the electorate was sharply split, with many voters regretting the fact that they were forced to choose between “unlikables.”
His opponent, Lee Jae-myung, a member of South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party, recognised the divisions in his nation during his concession address. In a statement, he expressed his earnest hope that the president-elect will lead the nation out of its divisions and conflicts and usher in a period of togetherness and harmony.
Mr. Yoon’s triumph, at the age of 61, brings conservatives back to power after five years in the wilderness of politics. His People’s Power Party had been in disarray after the impeachment of its leader, President Park Geun-hye, whom Mr. Yoon had assisted in the conviction and imprisonment on corruption allegations of President Park. Mr. Yoon, who also went after another former president as well as the CEO of Samsung, was hired by the party to manufacture a conservative renaissance in the country.
Both South Korea’s neighbours and the government of the United States were keeping a careful eye on the election results. Mr. Yoon’s victory might have a significant impact on the current president’s progressive agenda, particularly his policy of pursuing dialogue and peace with the North Korean regime. Mr. Moon has met with North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, three times during his tenure as president, but this has done little to deter Mr. Kim from swiftly developing his nuclear weapons programme in spite of Mr. Moon’s efforts.
Mr. Yoon worked as the Prosecutor General during Mr. Moon’s administration. When he resigned from his position as chief of staff last year and turned into a harsh opponent of his former employer, his political standing in conservative South Korea improved. Pre-election polls had shown that South Koreans would vote for Mr. Yoon less because they liked him and more to express their displeasure with President Moon and his Democratic Party than because they liked him.
His election comes at a time when South Korea is projecting more global influence than it has ever done before. The tiny country of 52 million people has long outperformed its peers in industry and technology, but in recent years it has expanded its list of successful worldwide exports to include cinema, television, and music, among other things.
The cost of a home is out of reach. The nation has one of the world’s lowest birthrates, and the population is expected to decline for the first time on record in 2021 as the uncertainty surrounding the economy makes young people hesitant to marry or have a family. Numerous individuals fresh out of college express dissatisfaction with the paucity of work prospects available to them, sometimes criticising older generations of clinging to their positions. Furthermore, anti-immigrant and anti-feminist views are on the increase in the United States.
However, in the National Assembly, where Mr. Moon’s Democratic Party now maintains a majority, the newly elected president may encounter furious opposition. Mr. Yoon’s campaign vow to dismantle the country’s Ministry of Gender Equality may prove to be especially difficult in the coming weeks and months.
In addition, he must deal with a public that is resentful and disillusioned.
New claims of legal and ethical misbehaviour surfaced nearly on a daily basis, casting more suspicion on Mr. Yoon and his wife, Kim Keon-hee, as well as on Mr. Lee, Mr. Yoon’s main competitor.
Many people believed they were left with an unsatisfactory option after the presidential election.
In the end, it wasn’t so much about who you liked better as it was about who you hated less, said Jeong Sang-min, a logistics executive at an international garment firm who is 35 years old.