South Korea will hold its 19th election on May 9, 2017 due to President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. The Removal of President Park from office came as a result of a corruption scandal that Ms. Park acted as an accomplice to the case of Choi Soon-sil, who used her personal relationship with President Park to funnel donations from business leaders into foundations controlled by Ms. Choi. The election comes at a time of unrest for East Asia as missile tests run by North Korea threaten to disrupt the peace. The ongoing conflict and uncertain future places greater significance on this election.
The current frontrunner in the election is Ahn Cheol-soo of the National Assembly and People’s Party. Mr. Ahn has surged in the polls as a result of vocal threats North Korea issued including attacks on U.S. military bases in South Korea as well as attacks on the blue house, where the South Korean President resides. Mr. Ahn undoubtedly sees his conservative platform attracting more followers in hopes that a victory for the National Assembly and People’s Party will result in a tougher stand on national security. In the international arena, United States president, Donald Trump, has warned China that failure to deter North Korea from escalating missile tests and threats will result in unilateral action. The warning serves as yet another reminder of the need for South Korea to elect a leader capable of navigating international waters.
Mr. Ahn’s primary opponent, Moon Jae-in, finds himself the leader of the majority party in South Korean politics, yet not the front runner the 2017 election. The race has essentially boiled down between Mr. Ahn and Mr. Moon with the latter heading a party with a majority in parliament of 119 seats. The vision Mr. Ahn has for South Korea is a departure from the political elite who he claims has corrupted the political sphere. On the other hand, Moon Jae-in has pointed to Mr. Ahn as yet another figurehead for a conservative movement that still holds strong ties to allies of President Park.
Despite an exchange of jabs during the campaign, both Mr. Ahn and Mr. Moon share similar views on a number of issues such as sparking a major overhaul of the chaebol. The chaebol is a business conglomerate with strong ties to the government and includes technology giants like Samsung. In terms of security, both candidates stressed the necessity of maintaining a strong alliance with the United States, however, they spoke out against any military action that could lead to war in the peninsula. As reported by the Washington Post, the rise of Mr. Ahn is unprecedented, with recent polls showing Mr. Ahn to be within a few points of Mr. Moon. The recent data has shown to have some effect on the liberal camp, with advisors close to Mr. Moon expressing shock at Mr. Ahn’s sudden popularity. Results will be counted on May 9.