South Korea’s new president vows to create ‘a proud Korea’

Moon Jae-in’s emphatic election win likely to lead to more dialogue with North Korea

South Korean president-elect Moon Jae-in, of the Democratic Party of Korea, celebrates with supporters  in Seoul on Tuesday. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

South Korean president-elect Moon Jae-in, of the Democratic Party of Korea, celebrates with supporters in Seoul on Tuesday. Photograph: Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

 

Moon Jae-in, the former human rights lawyer who will become South Korea’s next president after winning Tuesday’s election by a large margin, is likely to resume dialogue with North Korea while trying to heal divisions over his predecessor’s corruption scandal.

“I will build a new nation. I will make a great Korea, a proud Korea. And I will be the proud president of such a proud nation,” Moon told supporters in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun precinct.

The liberal presidential candidate was voted into the Blue House with some 6.25 million, or 39.5 per cent, of the 15.88 million votes counted by Tuesday evening, according to the country’s National Election Commission, and exit polls gave him about 41 per cent of the vote. He proved particularly popular among young voters.

During his time as chief of staff of the late president Roh Moo-hyun, Moon was instrumental in the “Sunshine Policy” of engaging North Korea through humanitarian aid and he is likely to adopt a more moderate approach to the North during his tenure.

His party advocates a policy of encouraging dialogue with North Korea while keeping up pressure through sanctions.

Joint industry

He could encourage the reopening of the joint industrial park at Kaesong, which opened in 2004 in North Korea to employ North Koreans in South Korean firms, but which closed last year in response to North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests.

He will be sworn in for a five-year term on Wednesday and has pledged to get straight down to work, skipping the usual lavish inauguration ceremony.

The election took place after the March 10th impeachment and arrest of former president Park Geun-hye over a massive corruption scandal.

He takes over a country trying to deal with growing militarism in North Korea and fears of another nuclear test.

During the campaign, Moon was critical of the deployment of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (Thaad) system, which was installed to combat the growing threat of North Korea but has angered China.

He has said the decision to deploy Thaad was made too quickly and shouldn’t have happened during the interim administration following Park’s impeachment, and he wants to review the installation.

His questioning of Thaad comes as many Koreans are sceptical about US president Donald Trump’s demand for Seoul to contribute $1 billion (€920 million) in the operational costs.

Mr Moon has also pledged to reform the country’s powerful chaebols, the family-owned industrial conglomerates, and also bridge a growing wealth gap and youth unemployment.

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