Exit polls in South Korea forecast that liberal candidate Moon Jae-in will win an election Tuesday to succeed ousted President Park Geun-hye. Official results weren’t expected for hours, but the exit poll of about 89,000 voters at 330 polling stations, jointly commissioned by three major television stations and released just after polls closed, showed Moon receiving 41.4 percent of the vote.
His two main rivals, conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, were expected to garner 23.3 percent and 21.8 percent, respectively, according to the exit poll, which had a margin of error of 0.8 percentage points. Such polls are merely a snapshot of the stated intentions of certain voters.
The final opinion surveys released last week showed Moon, the Democratic Party candidate, had about a 20 percentage point lead over his two main challengers. A win by Moon would end a decade of conservative rule in South Korea and could result in sharp departures from recent policy toward nuclear-armed North Korea.
Moon Jae-in has called for engagement with North Korea, saying that the hard-line approach favored by conservative governments did nothing to prevent the North from expanding its nuclear bomb and missile programs and only reduced South Korea’s voice in international efforts to deal with its rival.
○ North Korea Snubs World Powers – 3rd Underground Nuclear Test (2013)
○ Sunshine In Korea – Debate over Policies Toward North Korea | Rand |
Moon was chief of staff for the last liberal president, the late Roh Moo-hyun, who sought closer ties with North Korea by setting up large-scale aid shipments to the North and by working on now-stalled joint economic projects.
Moon frequently appeared at anti-Park rallies and the corruption scandal boosted his push to re-establish liberal rule. He called for reforms to reduce social inequalities, excessive presidential power and corrupt ties between politicians and business leaders. Many of those legacies dated to the dictatorship of Park’s father, Park Chung-hee, whose 18-year rule was marked by both rapid economic rise and severe civil rights abuse.
As a former pro-democracy student activist, Moon was jailed for months in the 1970s while protesting against the senior Park. Many analysts say Moon, if elected, likely won’t pursue drastic rapprochement policies because North Korea’s nuclear program has progressed significantly since he was in the Roh government a decade ago.
A big challenge for whoever wins will be U.S. President Donald Trump, who has proven himself unconventional in his approach to North Korea, swinging between intense pressure and threats and offers to talk.
“South Koreans are more concerned that Trump, rather than North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, will make a rash military move, because of his outrageous tweets, threats of force and unpredictability,” Duyeon Kim, a visiting fellow at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul, wrote recently in Foreign Affairs magazine.