A former prosecutor became South Korea’s 20th president following a national this week.
On March 9, Yoon Suk-yeol emerged as the nation’s new leader following a campaign against 12 other candidates. Under current President Moon Jae-in, Yoon served as a government prosecutor general from 2019 to May 2021.
The 61-year-old stepped down to run as a presidential candidate.
He won the Conservative People Power Party primaries and has been supported by “South Koreans who disagree with the outgoing government’s moderate stance, particularly on national security matters,” per CBS News.
Yoon secured his victory over Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung by 0.7 percentage points. In the 23-year history of South Korea’s direct presidential election system, there has never been a more narrow margin of victory.
“Based on the final results of the election reported by local media, Yoon won 48.56 percent of votes while Lee garnered 47.83 percent. Sim Sang-jung from the Justice Party received 2.37 percent of the votes,” reports The Diplomat.
Outgoing President Moon is considered to be a popular leader, maintaining a 45% approval rating in the final weeks of his term — higher than his predecessor.
Exit polls conducted in cities across the country found the majority of men in their 20s voted for Yoon while the majority of women in their 20s voted for Lee.
During his campaign, Yoon supported strengthening the security alliance between South Korea and the United States. He also wants his country to exercise more force on the international stage.
In an interview The Washington Post, Yoon said it was “regrettable” that South Korea had not responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and quickly as a Western country, Japan or Australia. He said they should “do our best to meet the expectations and demands of the international society.”
During his first news conference as president-elect, Yoon said South Korea needs to improve its “global diplomatic competence amid growing nuclear threats from North Korea and tensions from the strategic competition between the United States and China.”
He vowed to “build a strong national defense force” in order to “protect people’s safety, property, territory and sovereignty.”
The president-elect added that “the door to inter-Korean dialogue will remain opened.”
United States President Joe Biden called Yoon to congratulate him on his win.
“Together, they affirmed the strength of the U.S.-[Republic of Korea] alliance, which is the linchpin for peace, security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific,” the White House said in a statement announcing the call. “The two also committed to maintain close coordination on addressing the threats posed by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.”
Yoon will take office in May and serve a five-year term.