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Asia Minute: South Korea’s Presidential Race

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Recent news from the Korean peninsula has focused on security threats from North Korea. But we are now less than a week away from a presidential election in South Korea. And the results are likely to have an impact beyond the country’s borders. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.


There’s a definite front-runner in next week’s South Korean presidential race.

Liberal Moon Jae-in leads the polls and political risk consultants the Eurasia Group puts the odds of him winning at 80 percent.

Centrist candidate Ahn Cheol Soo has lost ground in recent days, and while conservative candidate Hong Joon-pyo has seen increased support, he still trails the other two. 

Moon, the leading candidate, is the political opposite of Park Geun-hye—the conservative former president whose trial on corruption charges began Tuesday. Moon has promised to review his predecessor’s decision to deploy the U.S. anti-missile system called “THAAD”—the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.

That system just became operational this week.

It’s designed to shoot down North Korean missiles, but China opposes it—at least in part because it says the radar penetrates into Chinese territory.

The business community seems open to a Moon administration—South Korea’s main Kospi Index has risen about 4.5 percent in the last three weeks and is up more than six percent since President Park was removed from office.

Whatever the outcome of the presidential election, change will come quickly.

The winner will take office as president immediately, once the final vote is certified.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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