2017 South Korea Presidential Election: the “Moon” and “Hong” Race


The ballots have been counted and the results announced—Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party has been selected as Korea’s 19th executive leader, winning with 41.1 percent of the votes. It took months of mass rallies, an impeached President, and a divided nation to come to this point and though the winning candidate came without surprise, many were taken aback by Moon’s main opponent: Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party (the new conservative Saenuri Party that was disbanded with Park’s scandal).

Weeks ago, Hong was just another minority party representative—an unpopular party at that—unlikely to receive a double-digit percentage of the votes. Yesterday’s election, however, clearly revealed otherwise with Hong outrunning Moon’s likely centrist opponent, Ahn Cheol-su (People’s Party) by a substantial margin.


Some owe Hong’s surging popularity to what is being considered Ahn’s childish tactic during the TV debates of taking accusations made against him too personally. Others claim that Ahn was not direct enough in winning the hearts of conservative voters by tentatively suggesting the possibility of freeing Park Geun-hye of charges. Meanwhile, surveys reveal that progressive voters vied against Ahn for even suggesting amnesty towards Park.

The younger demographic of voters that largely voted for the Democratic Party did not hide their sentiments against Hong’s two-digit number. One Instagram user said on her page, “Why did you impeach her [Park Geun-hye] if you were going to vote for Hong?” Many are still in outrage over Hong’s statements of wanting to embody the strong leader Park Chung-hee (father to former President Park) in one of the debates and for helping his friend rape a colleague as a university student. It seems it will take some time for the shock to reside.

For those in the conservative ranks, yesterday’s Blue-party win was not altogether a defeat. Experts consider Hong’s rising popularity an asset for next year’s National Assembly election. For a dying conservative Saenuri party, the Liberty Korea Party was the unifying answer to the power vacuum created by Park’s removal from office. And it looks as though Hong’s promise to strengthen the conservative right wing will mar Bareun Party Yoo Seung-min’s efforts to reform Korea’s persisting conservative faction.


-By Seo Eui-mi, Reporter for The AsiaN


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