Liberal politician Moon Jae-in decisively won South Korea’s presidential election on Tuesday, an exit poll showed, an expected victory that would end nearly a decade of conservative rule and bring a more conciliatory approach toward North Korea.
Moon’s victory would end months of political turmoil that led to parliament’s impeachment of conservative former President Park Geun-hye over an extensive corruption scandal, which a court upheld in March. Park became the first democratically elected leader in South Korea to be removed from office, triggering a snap election to choose her successor.
Climbing a temporary stage set up in the main square in downtown Seoul, a beaming Moon surrounded by his Democratic Party leaders, vowed to usher in a new era for a country badly bruised by the scandal, reports Reuters.
“I will make a just, united country,” he told a crowd gathered at midnight to see the former human rights lawyer who entered politics just five years ago. “I will be a president who also serves all the people who did not support me.”
With 48 percent of the votes counted at 1535 GMT, Moon was ahead with 39.6 percent, according to the National Election Commission. A conservative challenger, former prosecutor Hong Joon-pyo, was next with 26.3 percent followed by centrist candidate Ahn Cheol-soo with 21.3 percent.
A plurality of votes is enough for victory.
The results were in line with an exit poll by South Korea’s three biggest broadcasters, which showed Moon, 64, capturing 41.4 percent of the votes in a field of 13 candidates.
“If exit polls are true, I will accept the results and just be satisfied with the fact that the Liberty Korea Party will be restored,” a downcast Hong told members of his conservative party.
Ahn said he would “humbly accept” the result.
Voter turnout was 77.2 percent, the highest in 20 years, but short of the expected 80 percent mark, as voters headed to the polls in drizzly weather.