South Korea Presidential Election: Moon Jae-in Claims Victory

Exit polls in South Korea are forecasting a win by liberal candidate Moon Jae-in in an election to succeed ousted President Park Geun-hye.

Millions of South Koreans headed to polls Tuesday to elect a new president, a culmination of a two-month race a trailing conservative equated to an ideological war as his liberal rival appeared poised to overturn a decade of conservative rule after a massive scandal toppled the previous leader.

The 64-year-old won almost 11.7 million, or 40.3 per cent, of all votes counted as of 2:47 a.m. local time, Yonhap news agency quoted the National Election Commission (NEC) as saying.

"I feel the people's strong will to change the government. we can make it a reality only when we vote", Mr Moon said after casting his ballot with his wife in western Seoul.

The victor will be sworn in after the National Election Commission confirms the result Wednesday.

Official results will be out early Wednesday (May 10) Korea time. A plurality is enough for victory. "But I can not miss my chance of making a great country", she told CNN.

Hong said in a televised address that he will accept the election result and be satisfied with restoring his party.

The new leader is expected to quickly name a prime minister, who will need parliamentary approval, and main cabinet positions, including national security and finance ministers, which do not need parliamentary confirmation.

Moon, who lost to Park narrowly in the last presidential election in 2012, has criticized the two former conservative governments for failing to stop North Korea's weapons development. He has vowed to clean up politics, reform the powerful family-run conglomerates, or chaebol, that dominate the economy, and increase spending to create jobs.

North Korean state media took a shot at the departing conservative government the day before the vote.

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

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His Democratic Party holds 40 percent of the single-chamber, 299-seat assembly, which means he will have to build coalitions to pass legislation. 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. Only between 22 percent and 25 percent of people in their 60s and 70s voted for Moon, exit polls showed, underscoring a long-standing generation gap.

Saying he believed Trump is "more reasonable than he is generally perceived", Moon praised the US President's advocacy of "burger diplomacy" - literally opting for a chat over a burger rather than a formal summit.

Mr Moon, whose campaign promises include a "National Interest First" policy, has struck a chord with people who want the country to stand up to powerful allies and neighbours.

Aside from the North Korea threat, South Korea is dealing with mounting backlash from China. Seen here posing before a TV debate, from left to right, are Hong Jun-pyo, Ahn Cheol-soo, Yoo Seung-min, Sim Sang-jung, and Moon Jae-in. The nuclear issue is now central to inter-Korean relations.

South Korean National Election Commission officials sort out.

Moon, a 64-year-old former human rights lawyer, will be South Korea's 12th president.

"Still, Moon is expected to engage in discussions, which could improve North-South relations".

However, one area where they firmly not in agreement is over the deployment in South Korea of the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.

Moon has said the decision was made hastily and the next administration should have the final say on whether to deploy the system.

The closely watching South Korea's presidential election and the changes in policy that it could bring.

"We look forward to working with President-elect Moon to continue to strengthen the alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea and to deepen the enduring friendship and partnership between our two countries", he added.

  • Adam Floyd