Seoul. South Korea. Voters here have spoken their minds as the ballots now show Moon Jae-in is the new South Korean President by a wide margin, in today’s presidential election.
South Korea has chosen its new President. On Tuesday, exit polls suggest center-left candidate Moon Jae-in was elected by a landslide to replace ousted President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached in October on charges of bribery and abuse of power.
Moon, candidate for the Democratic Party, lead with 41.4% of the vote. Hong Jun-pyo, of Park’s conservative Saenuri Party, was behind with 23.3%, leaving People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo in third place on 21.8%. The numbers suggest that Moon Jae-in has been firmly elected by a wide margin.
The son of refugees from North Korea, Moon grew to prominence as a student activist, and was twice jailed for organizing pro-democracy demonstrations against South Korean dictator Park Chung-hee, the impeached Park’s father.
Moon later became a human-rights lawyer and then chief-of-staff to former President Roh Moo-hyun, whose policy of engagement with North Korea he has vowed to rekindle, much to the west’s dismay.
South Korean security concerns overshadowed the presidential campaign, owing to deteriorating relations between the USA and North Korea following President Donald Trump’s threats of military strikes in response to Kim Jong- Un’s escalating nuclear and missile tests.
Trump in April,ordered a US navy strike group an “armada,” as he put it, to the Korean peninsular region. On April 16, North Korea attempted another missile test just hours before Vice-President Mike Pence arrived in Seoul for an official visit. Pence responded by saying that military options remained “on the table.” In turn, a Pyongyang spokesperson threatened “a preemptive nuclear attack … if the Americans shows even the slightest sign of a preemptive attack on North Korea.”
The Park impeachment has seen South Korea largely sidelined in the escalating rhetoric. That’s despite the fact that its 50 million citizens half of whom live in the greater Seoul area, within 35 miles of the DMZ , are on the front line of any North Korean retaliation. “Any decision by the U.S. should be made in close consultation with South Korea, its close ally,” Moon says.
The new President has vowed to repair inter-Korean relations, advocating measured engagement with the Kim regime. He has also suggested that the U.S. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system in South Korea should be removed. Washington says THAAD has been deployed specifically to counter the threat of North Korean missiles, but Beijing is highly threatened by the surveillance capabilities of THAAD’s powerful radar, and a tourism and retail boycott of South Korea has severely damaged their economy.
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