South Korea’s election: Moon closes in

South Korea’s election: Moon closes in

After a torrid six months of scandal and presidential impeachment, South Koreans will hope for a fresh start when they

Photo: Ahn Young-joon

Photo: Ahn Young-joon

After a torrid six months of scandal and presidential impeachment, South Koreans will hope for a fresh start when they choose their next president on Tuesday.

Barring a calamity, pollsters and analysts agree that Moon Jae-in from the centre-left Minjoo Party will emerge victorious.

In contrast to his hawkish predecessor, Mr Moon advocates a more conciliatory approach to North Korea, advocating reengagement rather than open hostility. While he has wavered on the deployment of the US-backed THAAD anti-ballistic missile system, Moon is unlikely to back away from the long-standing policy, particularly given sections are already operational. Despite this, the new president will be far less pro-US than Park, a conservative, opening the door for increased cooperation China.

Domestically, Moon plans to increase government spending—allocating some $3.6 billion to create an additional 370,000 public sector jobs, mostly targeted at the elderly who struggle to make ends meet due to a weak pension system.

Reforming corporate laws to weaken family-run conglomerates, known as chaebols (think Samsung, Hyundai and LG), is also on Moon’s agenda. Samsung alone is estimated to comprise some 15% of the South Korean economy, leading to substantial income inequality. Chaebols were also implicated in President Park’s dramatic demise, making them an easy mark.

There will be little laurel-resting for Tuesday’s victory—the new president is due to assume duties on Wednesday.