South Korea Holds Presidential Election

South Korea will hold its presidential election today. Two main candidates will compete in today’s poll: Lee Jae-myung of the

South Korea presidential candidates debate before the election

South Korean presidential candidates debate ahead of today’s election. Photo: Kim Hong-Ji/AFP/Getty

South Korea will hold its presidential election today.

Two main candidates will compete in today’s poll: Lee Jae-myung of the liberal ruling Democratic Party and Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative opposition. Yoon has held a narrow lead in polling throughout the campaign.

He will receive a boost from the last-minute withdrawal of conservative third-party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo. However, Ahn’s withdrawal comes too late for him to be removed from the ballot. Sympathy votes following an attack on the Democratic Party’s head Monday may also improve Lee’s chances, as happened in local elections in 2006.

Though a Yoon victory is more likely, these last-minute shocks make the result difficult to predict. Both candidates are unpopular with the South Korean electorate, which will limit the mandate of the victor. On foreign policy, this will be less of an issue for Lee, who has promised broad continuity in contrast to his ambitious domestic program including universal basic income and expanded public housing.

Yoon promotes a strategic pivot towards Washington to address the North Korean threat regardless of the consequences on Sino-Korean relations. Yoon would likely face difficulty implementing this agenda, which would limit South Korean security cooperation with the Quad.

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