South Korea Elects Yoon Suk-yeol as President, Bringing Back a Tougher Line on North Korea

SEOUL—South Koreans elected Yoon Suk-yeol as president on Wednesday, setting up a conservative who promises a tougher stance on North Korea and closer ties with the U.S. on regional affairs.

Mr. Yoon, a 61-12 months-old previous prosecutor, marks a considerable overseas-policy change for Seoul, at minimum in rhetoric if not far more, from the left-leaning President

Moon Jae

-in, who favored engagement with the Kim Jong Un routine and a well balanced dynamic with Washington and Beijing.

But Mr. Yoon, of the conservative People Electrical power Bash, argues that the current tactic has still left South Korea with no plenty of say in its very own nationwide stability. In spite of Mr. Moon’s overtures, North Korea has returned to missile exams and its talks with Washington and Seoul have stalled.

“We shall stand on the appropriate facet of heritage with the U.S. by generating certain that these who undermine the liberal global order fork out the price accordingly,” Mr. Yoon said in a written job interview in advance of the election.

Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Social gathering calls himself South Korea’s Bernie Sanders and guarantees to give citizens a universal primary income.


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Supporters of Mr. Lee cheer during a marketing campaign rally in Seoul Tuesday.



A political newcomer who entered politics only previous yr, Mr. Yoon emerged the winner of a tight—and generally vitriolic—race with progressive


Jae-myung, of Mr. Moon’s ruling Democratic Party. He will get business in May.

It was South Korea’s closest presidential race considering the fact that the region transitioned to democracy in 1987. With all the votes counted, Mr. Yoon’s margin of victory was .73%, or about 250,000 votes, amid much more than 34 million ballots solid, in accordance to South Korea’s countrywide election commission. Mr. Yoon grabbed about 48.6% of the vote as opposed to Mr. Lee’s 47.8%.

“Today’s final result, fairly than a victory for me or the bash, is a victory for the Korean folks,” said Mr. Yoon, in a speech at campaign headquarters following winning the presidency.

President Biden congratulated Mr. Yoon on his victory. The phone took location at 9:40 a.m. on Thursday in Seoul, or roughly 5 hours right after Mr. Yoon had specified his acceptance speech, Individuals Energy Party officers said. The two affirmed the toughness of the U.S.-South Korean alliance and committed to close coordination on the North Korean missile menace, among the other subjects, in accordance to a White House statement.

From railway-released missiles to hypersonic ones, North Korea has been exhibiting new weapons alongside its nuclear bombs and submarines. WSJ usually takes a look at Pyongyang’s expanding arsenal to see what message it sends to the entire world. Composite: Diana Chan

In South Korean elections, the prospect with the most votes wins. Mr. Lee, in an early Thursday morning speech at his marketing campaign headquarters, congratulated Mr. Yoon and conceded the race.

“Yoon inherits a divided state soon after a divisive presidential race,” explained Jessica J. Lee, a Korea expert at the Quincy Institute for Dependable Statecraft, a Washington-dependent feel tank.

Before election working day, the marketing campaign path had usually turned awful, for supporters and candidates alike. The country debated feminism, down to the race’s closing day. A stream of scandals, lawsuits and faux news overcome plan discussion, making a cycle of denials, counter threats and the occasional apology. Locals panned the election as a race of unlikable candidates.

Turnout was even so robust. Soon after the polls shut Wednesday night time, about 77% of the country’s 44 million qualified voters experienced cast ballots, in accordance to South Korea’s countrywide election fee. It was a identical participation amount as the 2017 election won by Mr. Moon. South Korea’s structure limits presidents to a single five-calendar year term.

Mr. Moon, who raised the minimum amount wage and shortened operating hrs, has struggled to elevate the country’s de facto youth jobless charge, which has hovered about 20%. That is a critical aspect for voters like Jeong Do-yoon, who graduated from a single of South Korea’s most prestigious universities not long back. The 25-yr-previous is even now career hunting—and voted for Mr. Yoon.

“I go to interview just after job interview,” he mentioned. “But there are way too lots of competition.”

Lee Jae-hyun, a 27-year-old workplace employee in Seoul, reported he is siding with the Democratic Celebration nominee because the conservatives experienced corruption scandals of their individual when they were in energy and he doesn’t assume Seoul must confront the Kim regime. “I want to vote for a prospect who is a lot more progressive,” he reported.

Even though Messrs. Yoon and Lee support a sturdy alliance with the U.S., they carried distinct outlooks on how South Korea need to run in the planet. Questioned at a the latest debate which international leader they would fulfill initially, Mr. Yoon claimed it would be President Biden, while Mr. Lee answered it would count on the situation.

Amid Mr. Yoon’s possible safety pivots: He claims he won’t meet up with Mr. Kim unconditionally, and has even advocated for a pre-emptive strike against North Korea must an assault on South Korea seem imminent. He wishes to normalize strained ties with Tokyo. He’s eager to take into account expansion of an American antimissile method deployed in South Korea that earlier drew China’s wrath.

“We imagine China will respect South Korea’s sovereign selection if it acknowledges the actuality that North Korea’s danger has only increased” considering the fact that the U.S. missile procedure was deployed in 2017, Mr. Yoon stated in the prepared interview.

And he sees the U.S. as the central axis to his government’s foreign policy, envisioning deeper partnerships on cybersecurity, worldwide supply chains and space. He wants Seoul to willingly participate in the four-country group recognized as the Quad, which has sought to counter China’s regional impact and involves the U.S., Japan, Australia and India.

Mr. Yoon grew up in relative affluence as the son of two college professors. A career prosecutor right up until just lately, he lacks foreign-policy encounter. He is the first South Korean president in new a long time to have not served in the country’s legislature.

Mr. Yoon usually takes command of the world’s 10th biggest economic system with a expanding world-wide profile. Its soft-ability triumphs contain the K-pop band BTS and


“Squid Game” display. The region is also household to deep-pocketed small business conglomerates, which includes Samsung, Hyundai and


which make points other nations covet: semiconductors, electric-automobile batteries and biopharmaceuticals.

A vast majority of South Koreans had wanted a transform from the Moon administration, according to Gallup Korea polls. In a penned job interview just before the election, Mr. Lee mentioned politics—not the party in charge—needed to be overhauled.

“People who want an administration improve have the exact views as I do,” Mr. Lee reported. “My comprehension is that they want radical modifications in their lives.”

Yoon Suk-yeol, of the opposition Persons Power Social gathering, courted South Korean guys who felt disenfranchised about the financial system and the future.


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Supporters Mr. Yoon through a rally in Seoul on Tuesday.


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Mr. Yoon courted South Korean men who felt disenfranchised about the economy and the future. He proposed giving particular payments to adult men who finish the country’s male-only military services conscription and pledged to abolish the Gender Equality and Relatives ministry, which operates packages for ladies, one-father or mother homes and youngster-treatment products and services. On the eve of the election, Mr. Yoon reported he wasn’t a feminist.

“It is pure for ideological variations to reveal by themselves all through an election,” Mr. Yoon mentioned in the penned interview.

Lee Myung-jo, a 28-calendar year-old business employee in Seoul, is a person of Mr. Yoon’s ardent backers, believing that the Moon administration experienced supplied women of all ages unfair positive aspects in the occupation current market. The two of his mom and dad are longtime Democratic Social gathering supporters. But soaring true-estate prices—which had approximately doubled in the Seoul metropolitan place below Mr. Moon—mean he simply cannot order an apartment, leaving him worse off than his parents. So he is angry.

“We do not speak politics at home any more,” he explained.

Identification politics was deployed in a way South Korea hadn’t found in advance of, correctly pitting youthful men and young ladies against each other. The shift built South Korea’s younger grown ups, who have typically sided with progressives, additional probable to be swing voters in this election.

Next the 2017 ousting of conservative President Park Geun-hye in excess of an impact-peddling scandal, a greater part of South Koreans recognized on their own as liberals, in accordance to Gallup Korea polling.

Now a lot more voters, even youthful kinds, are pulling to the center or even determining as conservatives. Additional than a 3rd of gentlemen in their 20s now guidance the conservative get together, up from 5% about five a long time ago, Gallup states.

Two generations of personnel following the Korean War reaped the positive aspects of a nation catapulting out of poverty. The economy was escalating, on ordinary, 15% a 12 months when child boomers entered the labor drive and 9% for Technology X, in accordance to Shin Jae-yong, a professor at Seoul National College. The middle course ballooned. Jobs were plentiful.

But South Koreans now in their 20s and 30s confront a significantly unique employment truth. Yearly expansion has slowed down to the small single digits. Blue-collar work opportunities shifted to China, India and Southeast Asia—not that quite a few youths, who grew up in relative wealth, go after that style of work. Top conglomerates like Samsung, LG and Hyundai reject more applicants than do Ivy League colleges: only about 3% of them get in.

“They are the most educated era nonetheless they get paid the least,” Prof. Shin said.

Kim Ji-min, a 24-12 months-old university pupil in Seoul, voted for the ruling Democratic Bash in prior elections. Mr. Yoon’s proposals, such as abolishing the gender ministry, be concerned her, however she stated Mr. Lee hasn’t proven enough commitment to promoting ladies-welcoming procedures either.

This time, she is opting to forged her vote with a third-bash candidate, whom she considers as the race’s only feminist. “It’s scary to think the future president does not care about gals,” Ms. Kim explained.

Produce to Timothy W. Martin at [email protected] and Dasl Yoon at [email protected]

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