LANDSLIDE VICTORY FOR MOON
Exit poll shows Democratic Party candidate winning by 41.4 per cent
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
Moon Jae-in celebrating at Gwanghwamun Square, Seoul, yesterday.