South Korea: Liberal Candidate Moon Jae-in Claims Victory In Presidential Election

Miranda GreerMay 10, 2017

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his News Year's message that his country has entered the final stage of preparing to launch an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of hitting the United States.

Moon can point to the failure on North Korea of the last decade of hard-line conservative leadership, including Park's truncated rule.

Moon, much like his predecessor, has signaled interest in greater engagement with North Korea, but has balanced statements with a willingness to prioritize the bilateral alliance with the United States.

"I gave all my body and soul (to the election) to the very end".

With a high voter turnout of 70 per cent, early exit polls had Moon, the progressive Democratic Party candidate, on 41.4 per cent compared to the conservative Liberal Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo on 23.3 per cent and the centrist People's Party candidate Ahn Cheol-su on 21.8 per cent.

Moon vowed to make South Korea a proud and righteous country where people always win.

The election is being watched closely by allies and neighbors at a time of high tension over North Korea's accelerating development of weapons since it conducted its fourth nuclear test in January a year ago.

The polls opened at 6 a.m. (2100 GMT on Monday) and will close at 8 p.m. (1100 GMT).

National elections are public holidays in South Korea and figures showed a turnout of 77.2 percent - the highest for 20 years in a presidential poll.

The victor will be sworn in after the National Election Commission confirms the result Wednesday. This forgoes the usual two-month transition because Tuesday's vote was a by-election to choose a successor to Park, whose term was to end in February 2018.

Mr Kim Sun-Chul, 59, said he voted for Mr Moon because "this country needs to restore democracy which has been so undermined by the Park government". The anti-missile system's deployment is meant to deter North Korea from conducting further missile tests.

We are the owners of the Korean peninsula problem; we have to lead, right? "This is not the time to keep our eyes just on domestic issues - we need to think about the nation's long-term future and peace".

Ms Park, South Korea's first female president, is in a detention facility near Seoul and awaits a criminal trial. Park is now in jail on trial for charges of bribery and abuse of power. Park sympathizers later staged their own rallies. He narrowly lost the last presidential elections to Park in 2012. He called for reforms to clean up social inequalities, excessive presidential power and corrupt ties between politicians and business leaders.

Many of those legacies dated to the dictatorship of Ms Park's father, Park Chung-hee, whose 18-year rule was marked by both rapid economic rise and severe civil rights abuse.

In 1975, Moon was jailed for months for staging anti-government protests before being conscripted into the military's special forces.

Moon says that the security benefits of THAAD, or Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, would be curtailed by worsened relations with China, whose help Washington and Seoul are trying to enlist to pressure Pyongyang into giving up its nuclear ambitions. The system has irked Beijing, Seoul's largest trading partner. "So he is my destiny", he wrote in his best-selling memoir, Moon Jae In - The Destiny.

But for many South Korean voters, corruption, slowing growth, unemployment, and even air pollution from China top the list of concerns.

Many analysts say Moon, if elected, likely won't pursue drastic rapprochement policies because North Korea's nuclear program has progressed signficantly since he was in the Roh government a decade ago.

The election is being closely watched overseas at a time of high tension with North Korea, which is believed to be preparing for a sixth nuclear test and has vowed to test an intercontinental missile. The country may already have shorter-range nuclear missiles that can strike South Korea and Japan.

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