Liberal Headed for a Win in S. Korea Presidential Election

Exit polls show Moon Jae-in will likely take over for disgraced Park Geun-hye
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 9, 2017 9:22 AM CDT
After Decade, Next S. Korean President Looks to Be a Liberal
South Korea's presidential candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party raises his hands as his party leaders and members watch results of exit polls for the presidential election in Seoul, South Korea, on Tuesday.   (Ahn Young-joon)

Exit polls in South Korea forecast that liberal candidate Moon Jae-in will win an election Tuesday to succeed ousted President Park Geun-hye, arrested in March for alleged corruption. A Moon win would end a decade of conservative rule in the South and could result in sharp departures from recent policy toward nuclear-armed North Korea, the AP reports. The exit poll of about 89,000 voters at 330 polling stations, commissioned by three major TV stations and released just after polls closed, showed Moon with 41.4% of the vote. His two main rivals, conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, were expected to garner 23.3% and 21.8%, respectively, with an error margin of 0.8 percentage points, per the poll. "I hope today will open the door for a new Republic of Korea," Moon said. "I will achieve reforms and national unity, the two missions that our people long for."

Moon, a Democratic Party candidate who was chief of staff for the last liberal president, the late Roh Moo-hyun, has called for engagement with North Korea, saying the hard-line approach favored by conservative governments did nothing to prevent the North from expanding its nuclear programs. The winner will be sworn in, set to serve a full, single five-year term, after the election commission finishes the vote count and declares the winner Wednesday. A big challenge for the winner will be President Trump, who has proven 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 ... Kim Jong Un, will make a rash military move, because of his outrageous tweets, threats of force, and unpredictability," a recent Foreign Affairs article notes. (More South Korea stories.)

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