South Korea elections: Opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol will be the country’s next president

Incoming president vows to ‘firmly deal with illicit, unreasonable behaviour’ from North Korea

<p>File: Yoon Suk-yeol, the new president of South Korea from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), gestures during an election campaign rally in Seoul</p>

File: Yoon Suk-yeol, the new president of South Korea from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP), gestures during an election campaign rally in Seoul

South Korea has elected conservative opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol as its new president after a tightly-contested race led to the defeat of his left-liberal rival Lee Jae-myung.

Mr Yoon, a 61-year-old political novice and avowed anti-feminist, rode to victory with 48.59 per cent of the votes against Mr Lee’s 47.80 per cent.

Around 98 per cent of the ballots had been counted by 4am local time.

The People Power Party candidate edged to a narrow win by 0.8 percentage points – or 263,000 votes – making the presidential race one of the closest-fought election battles in the country’s history.

Mr Yoon said it was a “victory of the great people” as he thanked supporters outside his home in the capital Seoul, describing it as a “long night”.

“The people put me here with hope in my conviction that I have not yielded to any power for fairness and justice for 26 years,” Mr Yoon said in a speech about his career as a prosecutor.

In a televised conference on Thursday morning, Mr Yoon said he will solidify an alliance with the US and “firmly deal with illicit, unreasonable behaviour” by North Korea.

“I’ll establish a strong military capacity to deter any provocation completely and protect the people’s safety and property and our territory and sovereignty,” Mr Yoon said.

“I’ll firmly deal with illicit, unreasonable behaviour by North Korea in a principled manner, though I’ll always leave the door for South-North talks open.”

Yoon Suk-yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party, who was elected South Korea's new president on Thursday

His address came after he spoke with US president Joe Biden on the phone.

Neither of the main presidential candidates, who were looking to replace outgoing president Moon Jae-in, were viewed as particularly popular throughout the campaign amid a wave of discontent over the country’s economic policy, scandals and gender wars.

With soaring housing prices and growing inequality at the centre of voter frustration, Wednesday’s election saw a high voter turnout with 77 per cent of voters casting ballots.

The victory of Mr Yoon marks the return of the conservatives to power after five years. The People Power Party had been in shambles after its leader, former president Park Geun-hye, was impeached and whom Mr Yoon helped convict and jail on corruption charges.

Mr Yoon also has a history of going against another former president, Lee Myung-bak, and businessman and Samsung heir Lee Jae-yong, making him a favourite within the party to engineer its revival.

He has promised to abolish the country’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family, a move that could prove to be contentious as the ministry provides family-based services, education and social welfare for children.

Mr Yoon’s campaign also exposed the country’s deep divide over gender issues as he leaned heavily on support from young men, some of whom believe there is no gender discrimination in South Korea.

Exit polls showed Mr Yoon garnered support from 58.7 per cent men in their 20s, compared to Mr Lee’s 36 per cent. At the same time, Mr Yoon received 33.8 women’s support, compared to Mr Lee’s 58 per cent.

“The widespread support Yoon enjoys from young men is, frankly, absolutely terrifying from a woman’s point of view,” academic and female voter Keung Yoon Bae told news agency AFP.

Mr Yoon, who has vowed a tougher stance on North Korea, will likely face a significant challenge in terms of foreign policy from Kim Jong-un’s leadership.

The North has conducted scores of missile tests since the beginning of this year. Mr Yoon’s confrontational rhetoric against his nuclear-powered neighbour is expected to intensify tensions between the two countries.

North Korea has not yet commented on Mr Yoon’s election win.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in