S.Korean presidential election great victory of great people: Moon Jae

May 10, 2017, 03:04

Liberal candidate Moon Jae In declared victory in South Korea's presidential election on Tuesday, ending almost a decade of conservative rule in the country.

Voters were seeking to fill the void left by the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye, who was ejected from office in March after a corruption scandal for which she's awaiting trial.

South Korean National Election Commission officials sort out ballots in the country's presidential election as a police officer stand guard in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 9, 2017.

Exit poll results will be available immediately after voting closes at 8 p.m. local time.

"We will need to calmly wait and see as this was just exit polls", he told party members.

"This is a great victory of great people who stayed with me to create a country of justice. where rules and common sense prevail", he said. He told his party he would push for reform and national unity if confirmed as the next president.

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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. He is likely to quickly name a prime minister, who will need parliamentary approval, and the main cabinet positions, including national security and finance ministers, which do not need parliamentary confirmation.

Moon was a former presidential Chief of Staff who later ran against, and narrowly lost to, former president Park Geun-hye in 2012.

The scandal that saw the former president arrested on corruption charges highlighted South Korea's dependence on huge family-owned businesses, or "chaebol", such as Samsung.

Moon says the confrontational approach did nothing to prevent North Korea from expanding its arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles and only reduced Seoul's voice in global efforts to deal with its rival.

His party advocates a policy of encouraging dialogue with North Korea while keeping up pressure through sanctions. Moon faces working with a fractured parliament where his Democratic Party holds 40 percent of the single-chamber, 299-seat assembly, which will likely mean difficulties and deals to pass bills.

Moon says their friendship changed his life.

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The three TV stations have conducted similar joint exit polls in major elections since 2010. Many of his supporters participated in big, peaceful weekend rallies over the last few months of 2016 and early this year, demanding Park step down.

Though it was never his intention to enter politics, he was roped in as a key adviser to Mr Roh, who won the 2003 presidential election.

Moon, the son of refugees from North Korea, favors engagement and cooperation with North Korea.

On Sunday, Pyongyang announced it had detained a USA citizen on suspicion of "hostile acts" against the regime, days after it accused Seoul and Washington of plotting to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un using "biochemical weapons". He also advocates building up a more assertive South Korea and is critical of Park's decision to allow Washington to install the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) advanced anti-missile system in the South.

The election comes amid persistent tensions with North Korea, wrangling over the installation of a widely-opposed American missile defense system and a stubbornly high unemployment rate among young people in Asia's fourth-largest economy. Pyongyang carried out its fifth nuclear test in September and is believed to be readying for another.

A problem that will doubtless intensify under a progressive president is Korea's strained relationship with Japan, an unfortunate fact since Japan and the United States are arguably the South's best allies, both in terms of defence and trade - Japan is Korea's third most important export parter, after China and the U.S., and second most important import partner, after China.

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