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South Korea's ex-prosecutor climbs in presidential poll after resignation

Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl ranked No. 1 in a South Korean presidential poll that showed Yoon leading over potential rivals. Yoon has not made a formal campaign announcement. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
Former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl ranked No. 1 in a South Korean presidential poll that showed Yoon leading over potential rivals. Yoon has not made a formal campaign announcement. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

March 8 (UPI) -- A former South Korean prosecutor who abruptly resigned last week is soaring in a local poll ahead of a presidential election in 2022.

Yoon Seok-youl, who was appointed to the top position in 2019 by President Moon Jae-in, polled above potential rivals in a Korea Society Opinion Institute survey conducted nationwide on Friday, News 1 reported Monday.

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Yoon has not made a formal campaign announcement.

About 32.4% of South Korean respondents said they preferred Yoon as a presidential candidate, the poll stated. Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Democratic Party ranked second at 24.1%. Lee Nak-yon, a close Moon confidant who was confronted by protesters last week, came third at 14.9%.

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Yoon resigned last week, citing the ruling party's push for a new investigative agency that would reduce the power of the prosecution, according to Yonhap.

"The spirit of the constitution and rule of law, which are the backbone of this country, are being destroyed," he had said.

Yoon was a key member of the special prosecutorial team that investigated the corruption scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye. The case ultimately led to Park's imprisonment.

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Moon had commended Yoon's tough approach, calling him a "man of integrity not swayed by pressure from power" in July 2019.

But Yoon's equally firm approach to Cho Kuk, who was investigated for school admission-related bribes, brought him in direct confrontation with the Democratic Party and with Cho's successor Choo Mi-ae, who also resigned last year during a conflict with Yoon. Choo suspended Yoon but a court granted his motion for an injunction against his suspension, according to World Politics Review.

Yoon's rise in the polls comes at a time when Moon's ratings are declining after real estate regulations led to surges in home prices. Moon has apologized for past policies.

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South Korean political consultant Park Seong-min told News 1 Yoon has become the "easiest" political figure for South Koreans who disapprove of Moon to "project" their grievances about the government.

South Korea's presidential election is to take place on March 9, 2022.

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