South Korea’s “Sunshine Policy” towards the North looked set to break through the clouds yesterday after Moon Jae-in of the left-wing Democratic Party won the presidency by a landslide.
Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo and Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party conceded defeat after exit polls showed Moon gaining 41.4 percent of the vote to their respective tallies of 23.3 and 21.8 percent.
“I hope today will open the door for a new Republic of Korea,” Moon told supporters.
“I will achieve reforms and national unity, the two missions that our people long for.”
After voting, Hong Joon-pyo said the election was a “war of regime choices between people, whether they decide to accept a North Korea-sympathizing leftist government or a government that can protect the liberty of the Republic of Korea.”
During the campaign, he called for the United States to re-deploy nuclear weapons in the country to threaten Pyongyang. Under former U.S. President Bill Clinton, nuclear forces had been withdrawn from the Korean peninsula in the 1990s.
Liberty Korea was the hasty rebranding of the conservative Saenuri Party of disgraced former president Park Geun-hye – daughter of assassinated dictator Park Chung-hee – whose impeachment sparked the election.
Park was expected to spend the election day in solitary confinement without visitors or TV at the detention center where she is being held awaiting trial on corruption charges.
Moon pledged to found a powerful new anti-corruption body to curb the excesses of the “chaebols” – South Korea’s powerful family-owned corporate conglomerates.
Samsung vice-chairman Lee Jae-yong also faces trial for allegedly using a secret department at the electronics giant to funnel millions to bogus charities set up by Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil.
Moon is a former aide to late president Roh Moo-hyun, architect of the Sunshine Policy of the 2000s, who killed himself after being hounded with corruption allegations.
He said Park’s saber-rattling towards Pyongyang – backed by Washington – has not halted North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
The new president also pledged to review the deployment of the U.S. THAAD anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea, which caused a major rift with China.
The U.S. Navy cruiser USS Lake Champlain collided with a South Korean fishing boat yesterday during training exercises intended to menace North Korea. No one was injured.
This story originally appeared in Morning Star.