Published: Wed, May 10, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Liberal claims victory as South Korea's leader

Liberal claims victory as South Korea's leader

While much of the world has been focused on the elections in France, another hugely consequential political contest just wrapped up5,500 miles away in South Korea.The election of Moon Jae-in, a left-leaning presidential candidate from the liberal Democratic Party, signals the end of about a decade of conservative rule in South Korea-and it could have major implications for the USA relationship with North Korea.

After exit polls indicated to his victory Tuesday night, Moon smiled and waved his hands above his head as supporters chanted his name at Gwanghwamun square in central Seoul, where millions of Koreans had gathered for months starting late previous year in peaceful protests that eventually toppled Park.

The hasty election came after Park, the country's first female president, was impeached in a corruption scandal that also swept up top officials from business giants Samsung and Lotte Group.

It put Mr. Moon on 41.4 per cent, with his nearest challenger, conservative Hong Joon-Pyo, on 23.3 per cent, the BBC reports.

Official results are expected on Wednesday morning, but Ahn and Hong conceded defeat shortly after the exit polls were released.

The victor will not take office until after being officially confirmed on Wednesday morning.

Only between 22 percent and 25 percent of people in their 60s and 70s voted for Moon, exit polls showed, underscoring a long-standing generation gap.

Such polls have a low margin of error but are merely a snapshot of the stated intentions of certain voters.

Experts stressed that Moon should fine-tune Seoul's stance with the U.S.to persuade the US that his engagement policy would keep pace with the global sanctions regime.

Moon, who narrowly lost to Park in the last presidential election, in 2012, favours dialogue with North Korea to ease rising tension over its accelerating nuclear and missile programme.

South Korea's electorate is deeply divided along ideological and generational lines, and the strong early turnout was seen as being driven by younger voters, who are more likely to support the liberal Moon.

Liam McCarthy-Cotter, a specialist in East Asian politics at Nottingham Trent University, said there was a need for South Korea "to re-establish its strength both domestically and in the face of increasingly hostile posturing from North Korea". He didn't want to be named, citing office rules.

"The location would underline the (new president's) vow to work in close partnership with the legislature", said officials of Moon Jae In's camp on Tuesday. "The president looks forward to meeting with him and talking about our shared interests", Spicer said.

"I will humbly accept the choice of the people", Ahn said.

Public sentiment in South Korea has already begun to sour towards Washington after President Trump said last month that Seoul should be paying for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system, contradicting the original mutual agreement in which Seoul would provide land and infrastructure. Moon's likeness also flew on a dragon and rode a horse as SBS showed vote counts.

Moon is expected to be sworn in for a five-year term later on Wednesday.

The former South Korean administration and the United States agreed on the THAAD installation past year.

The 64-year-old-accused by his critics of being soft on the North-has advocated dialogue to ease tensions and to bring it to negotiations.

Park's trial later this month on bribery, extortion and other corruption charges could send her to jail for life if she is convicted.

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