LAND­SLIDE VIC­TORY FOR MOON

Exit poll shows Demo­cratic Party can­di­date win­ning by 41.4 per cent

New Straits Times - - World -

LEFT-lean­ing for­mer hu­man rights lawyer Moon Jae-in won South Korea’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion by a land­slide yes­ter­day, ac­cord­ing to an exit poll, sweep­ing to power on a yearn­ing for change af­ter a tu­mul­tuous scan­dal.

The bal­lot was called to choose a new pres­i­dent af­ter Park Ge­un­hye was ousted and in­dicted for cor­rup­tion, and took place against a back­drop of high tensions with the nu­clear-armed North.

Vot­ers were gal­vanised by anger over the sprawl­ing bribery and abuse-of-power con­tro­versy that brought down Park, which catal­ysed frus­tra­tions over jobs and slow­ing growth.

They gave Moon, of the Demo­cratic Party, who backs en­gage­ment with the North, 41.4 per cent sup­port, ac­cord­ing to the joint sur­vey by three tele­vi­sion sta­tions.

Con­ser­va­tive Hong Joon-pyo, who dubs Moon a “pro-Pyongyang left­ist”, was far be­hind on 23.3 per cent, with cen­trist Ahn Cheol-soo third on 21.8.

The re­sult was “a great vic­tory of great peo­ple” who wanted to cre­ate “a coun­try of jus­tice... where rules and com­mon sense pre­vail”, Moon told cheer­ing sup­port­ers at Gwangh­wa­mun Square here.

Park’s graft scan­dal plunged the South into po­lit­i­cal tur­moil and bit­ter divi­sion, but Moon promised heal­ing, telling the crowd: “I will be pres­i­dent for all South Kore­ans.”

Na­tional elec­tions are public hol­i­days in South Korea and pre­lim­i­nary fig­ures showed a turnout of 77.2 per cent — the high­est for 20 years in a pres­i­den­tial poll. With 40 per cent of the vote counted, re­sults showed Moon with a slightly smaller share than the poll fore­cast, but not enough to mat­ter.

The cam­paign fo­cused largely on the econ­omy, with North Korea less prom­i­nent. But af­ter a decade of con­ser­va­tive rule, Moon’s vic­tory could mean sig­nif­i­cant change in Seoul’s ap­proach to­wards Pyongyang and key ally Wash­ing­ton.

The 64-year-old — ac­cused by his crit­ics of be­ing soft on the North — ad­vo­cates di­a­logue to ease tensions and to bring it to ne­go­ti­a­tions. He is seen as favour­ing more in­de­pen­dence in re­la­tions with the United States, Seoul’s se­cu­rity guar­an­tor with 28,500 troops in the coun­try.

Their pres­ence, he said dur­ing the cam­paign, was “im­por­tant not only to our own se­cu­rity, but also to US’s global strat­egy”.

Moon also said he would be will­ing to visit Pyongyang to meet Kim Jong-un and ad­vo­cated re­sump­tion of some of the in­terKorean projects shut­tered by his pre­de­ces­sors, in­clud­ing the Kaesong joint in­dus­trial zone.

For many South Korean vot­ers, cor­rup­tion, slow­ing growth, un­em­ploy­ment and even air pol­lu­tion from China top the list of con­cerns.

South Korea’s rapid growth from the 1970s to 1990s pulled a war-rav­aged na­tion out of poverty, but slowed as the econ­omy ma­tured, and un­em­ploy­ment among un­der-30s is now at a record 10 per­cent.

Frus­tra­tion over widen­ing inequal­ity in wealth and opportunities fu­elled anger over Park's scan­dal, which ex­posed the cosy and cor­rupt ties be­tween reg­u­la­tors and pow­er­ful fam­ily-ori­ented con­glom­er­ates, known as chae­bols, that have en­dured for decades.

In an elec­tion day editorial, the JoongAng daily said South Korea had been left “"adrift”" by the "“acute divi­sion and lack of na­tional lead­er­ship”", stem­ming from the cor­rup­tion scan­dal and Park’'s im­peach­ment.

The vote, it said, was a “"great op­por­tu­nity to put the trou­bled na­tion back on track”. AFP

REUTERS PIC

Moon Jae-in cel­e­brat­ing at Gwangh­wa­mun Square, Seoul, yes­ter­day.

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