Progressive Moon Jae-in elected South Korea president

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Updated May 9, 2017 at 1:29 PM
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May 9 (UPI) -- A son of Korean War refugees who lost to ousted leader Park Geun-hye in the last South Korean election has won the presidency in a country calling for economic and political reform.

Moon Jae-in, who had pledged to tackle Korea's economic woes and reform the country's powerful business conglomerates, won the election by a landslide.

The president-elect said his victory came from the "desperation of the people for a new government."

In his victory speech, Moon pledged to be a president for all, and to build bridges with former political rivals.

Exit polls showed Moon at first place with 41.4 percent of the vote, followed by the conservative Hong Jun-pyo at 23.3 percent and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo at 21.8 percent, CNN reported.

Yonhap reported Ahn conceded defeat before the official announcement, and the Liberty Party Korea's Hong told reporters earlier in the evening that he would be "satisfied with restoring his party," referring to the deep divisions that beset Korea's conservatives after the impeachment of Park for her involvement in a corruption scandal that enriched her friend Choi Soon-sil.

South Korean voters turned out in record numbers.

According to the National Election Commission, more than 33.8 million people voted, a 77.2 percent turnout that is the highest since 1997, when President Kim Dae-jung was elected.

Moon, much like his predecessor, has signaled interest in greater engagement with North Korea, but has balanced statements with a willingness to prioritize the bilateral alliance with the United States.

Moon has said a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump would be his first priority.

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