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Liberal candidate Moon Jae-in wins South Korean election by landslide – exit poll


THE son of North Korean refugees was set to become the next president of South Korea on Tuesday, in an election that could shape the international response to Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme and open up talks with the pariah regime.

The election of former human rights lawyer, Moon Jae-in, 64, for the liberal Democratic Party, would mark a seismic shift in South Korean politics after the impeachment in March of conservative leader, Park Geun-hye, the country’s first female president, over corruption charges.

The first exit polls after voting closed at 8pm showed Mr Moon had a substantial lead over all other candidates, with 41.4% support. Despite heavy rain, well over 70% of voters had cast their ballot an hour before polls closed, in what was expected to be a record high turnout.

Mr Moon, who favours engagement with North Korea, will immediately be thrust into a tense stand-off between the US and Pyongyang over dictator Kim Jong-un’s ambitions to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile [ICBM] capable of striking America with a nuclear warhead.

He also faces a potential early clash with the US over the controversial deployment of the American anti-missile system, THAAD, on South Korean soil, a thorny issue that has divided the nation and sparked angry protests from China.

On the eve of the election North Korea sought to influence its neighbour not to vote for the conservatives, who it called “manic followers of confrontation” in a column in state-run newspaper, Rodong Sinmun.

“The history of inter-Korean confrontation, led by conservatives, should be put to an end and a new era of unification should open up,” said the newspaper viewed as a mouthpiece of the regime. “To that end, the conservative groups’ scheme to seize power again should be resolutely shattered.”

Impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye, center
Impeached South Korean President Park Geun-hye, center

The most prominent conservative contender, Hong Joon-pyo, from the Liberal Korea Party, who exit polls reveal to be in second place on 23.3%, was the natural successor to disgraced President Park, and hoped to win votes with the older generation through his strong pledges on national security.

Mr Moon, who would be the first left-leaning president in eight years, is the polar opposite of Ms Park, the daughter of a dictatorial general, and who followed a hawkish sanctions-based policy against North Korea.

After narrowly losing to her in the 2012 poll, he joined millions late last year who took to the streets to demand her removal over an influence-peddling scandal that shocked the nation. Ms Park will face trial later this month on charges of extortion and bribery.

As her arch political rival, Mr Moon has stated his willingness to negotiate with Kim Jong-un to bring about peace on the Korean peninsula, and his intention to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Zone, a joint manufacturing project with North Korea, which Ms Park shut down.

The Telegraph

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