On March 9, Yoon Seok-yeol of the conservative Individuals Energy Occasion (PPP) gained the South Korean presidential elections by a slim margin. Yoon gained 48.6% of the vote whereas Lee Jae-myung, his rival from the Democratic Occasion (DP)  was not far behind at 47.8%. After 5 years of rule by President Moon Jae-in of the DP, the presidential Blue Home will as soon as once more be occupied by a conservative.

Paradoxically, Moon appointed Yoon as prosecutor normal of the nation. As the highest prosecutor, Yoon secured the conviction of two former conservative presidents for corruption. He additionally pressed costs in opposition to Samsung Chairman Lee Jae-yong who was sentenced to jail in a bribery scandal. “Owing loyalty to no one,” Yoon then went on to analyze members of the Moon administration, catapulting this star prosecutor into the nationwide limelight and finally making him the PPP candidate.

Yoon is an outsider.  He has no administrative expertise and little entry to Seoul’s political networks. He has not even served as a member of parliament. The truth that Yoon got here out on prime confirms that public recognition is now extra vital than social gathering allegiance and political or administrative expertise within the South Korean presidential system.

The election — though very shut nationwide —  uncovered South Korea’s regional division. On this nation, political events will not be primarily divided by ideology or political platforms however slightly by historical past and regional origins. Within the southwestern Cholla provinces, greater than 80% voted for Lee whereas the southeastern Kyongsang areas voted overwhelmingly for Yoon. 

A Horrible Housing Disaster and Gender Points

The largest shock was that Yoon gained the capital metropolis of Seoul, a stronghold of the DP. This significant victory helped him win the election. It hinged on the one political difficulty that mattered throughout the marketing campaign: unaffordable housing costs. The Moon administration failed to deal with this burning difficulty, which damage the DP. 

The overwhelming significance of this matter can solely be understood within the context of the jeonse rental system in South Korea. Jeonse requires lump sum funds and immediately hyperlinks rents to actual property costs. As well as, rental contracts are restricted to 2 years and there may be virtually no safety for tenants who’re left to the whims, fancies and even tyranny of their landlords. The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s 2021 South Korea Report noticed that: “Whereas rules on householders and tenant safety have been barely improved, they’ve did not arrest the huge will increase in housing prices within the city facilities.”


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In these elections, a gender divide emerged amongst youthful voters. Solely 34% of ladies of their 20s voted for Yoon in distinction to 59% of males in the identical age group. This was by far the biggest gender divide amongst totally different age teams ever recorded. Prior to now, youthful voters have tended to vote for the DP. Yoon appealed to younger males by opposing “feminism” and even promising to abolish the ministry of gender equality. Observe that South Korea’s common gender pay hole is among the largest on the planet. Moreover, South Korea’s labor-force participation price amongst girls is the fifth-lowest among the many 29 EU and OECD international locations as per a report on Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI).  The authors of the report see a “continued prevalence of conventional concepts about household and gender roles.“ On a associated word, Shim Sang-jeung, the highest-ranked feminine presidential candidate of the progressive Justice Occasion obtained solely 2.4% of the vote as in comparison with 6.2% in 2017, exposing the disaster during which the political left now finds itself in South Korea. 

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A Tough Political State of affairs

Over time, election campaigns have turn into virtually utterly customized and devoid of political agendas. Unfavourable campaigning now delves into character flaws of the candidates and even of their wives. Notably surprising is how very important points, comparable to the intense environmental degradation in South Korea or how the nation plans to fight local weather change fail to function in presidential debates. South Korea has the bottom share of renewable vitality among the many 41 international locations examined by the SGI report. A later report takes the view that South Korea “is extra targeted on [its] development facet than on environmental safety.”

It’s troublesome to foretell the course the Yoon administration will take throughout its five-year tenure which begins on Could 10. As a political and administrative novice, Yoon will depend on his social gathering and the forms. In terms of financial and social insurance policies, Yoon – the son of a market-liberal economics professor – promised to cut back authorities interventions. Nevertheless, he’s more likely to make little headway as a result of his social gathering doesn’t have a majority within the parliament. The DP instructions a powerful majority with 172 out of 300 seats. It might shoot down Yoon’s financial insurance policies although it could not have the two-thirds majority wanted to override presidential vetoes, amend the structure, or impeach the president. 

Whereas the South Korean president has robust constitutional powers and might rule by decrees, his skill to impose radical adjustments with out correct laws is proscribed. If the president leads to a standoff with parliament, the nation may find yourself in political gridlock. This would possibly trigger instability or, on a extra optimistic word, inaugurate a brand new period of cooperation and compromises between the 2 camps or perhaps a full reorganization of political events. Yoon’s election has upped the political ante for the nation. Now, all events are targeted on the following parliamentary election in 2024.

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International Coverage Ambitions 

If issues appear rocky on the home entrance, they’re higher in relation to international coverage. For a very long time, relations with North Korea, China, Japan and the US have been one in every of few ideological divisions between the 2 massive events. Moon’s presidency adopted the basic DP agenda of partaking North Korea to realize an as-yet unfulfilled objective of signing a peace treaty or not less than an end-of-war declaration. The PPP fiercely opposed the DP on this difficulty. Battle with North Korea has lengthy been a way for the conservative PPP to rally its supporters. Members of the PPP additionally worry {that a} peace treaty would undermine South Korea’s alliance with the US, risking the withdrawal of American troops. 

Yoon is probably going to make use of the PPP’s glorious ties with the US to strengthen the US-South Korea alliance. His authorities is more likely to restore relations with Japan. Japan-South Korea relations have deteriorated on account of friction over Japanese reparations for its colonial atrocities in Korea. Nearer ties to the US and Japan will give Yoon much less leeway in coping with China and Russia. In terms of the battle in Ukraine, Yoon is more likely to put South Korea extra firmly on the US aspect and in opposition to Russia. Below the brand new president, South Korea, Japan and the US are more likely to come nearer collectively to strengthen the rules-based worldwide order in Asia.

The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Honest Observer’s editorial coverage.