Left-leaning former human rights lawyer Moon Jae-In began his five-year term as president of South Korea on Wednesday, following a landslide election win after a corruption scandal felled the country’s last leader. Tuesday’s ballot was called after Park Geun-Hye was ousted and indicted for corruption, and took place against a backdrop of high tensions with the nuclear-armed North.
Voters were galvanised by anger over the sprawling bribery and abuse-of-power controversy that brought down Park, which catalysed frustrations over jobs and slowing growth. Moon, of the Democratic Party, who backs engagement with the North, promised unity after final results from the National Election Commission (NEC) showed he took 41.1% of the vote — some 13.4 million ballots. Conservative Hong Joon-Pyo — who dubbed Moon a “pro-Pyongyang leftist” was far behind on 24.03%, with centrist Ahn Cheol-Soo third on 21.4%. Voter turnout was at its highest in 20 years, the Yonhap news agency reported.
Moon Jae-In’s inauguration ceremony was expected to take place at the National Assembly at midday (0300 GMT), the agency said, after the NEC confirmed the start of his mandate. The result was “a great victory of great people” who wanted to create “a country of justice… where rules and common sense prevail”, Moon told cheering supporters on Gwanghwamun Square in Seoul — where vast crowds gathered for candlelit protests over several months to demand Park’s removal. The graft scandal plunged the country into political turmoil and bitter division, but Moon promised healing, telling the crowd: “I will be president for all South Koreans.”