South Korea is heading to the polls tomorrow as it votes for a new president to replace disgraced Park Guen-hye.
Ex-president Park was impeached last year and is currently awaiting trial, after she was accused of bribery, extortion and abuse of power, in connection with her friend and advisor, Choi Soon-sil.
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Samsung’s group leader Lee Jae-yong has also been involved in the scandal after prosecutors accused him of giving donations worth $36m to Choi.
This was allegedly done in order to win government support for a restructuring of the tech conglomerate that would help Lee become the official leader. He is currently on trial.
The country is currently under the leadership of South Korea’s prime minister, Hwang Kyo-ahn, who will step aside from the presidential office once a new leader is elected tomorrow.
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Progressive candidate Moon Jae-in lost to Park in the last election and has been the front-runner in this campaign. If he gets into office, the relationship with North Korea could undergo a dramatic change.
Professor Hazel Smith from the School of African and Oriental Studies (Soas) told Verdict:
President Park had in practice taken a view of minimising any contacts with North Korea and Moon Jae-in is much more likely to look for ways to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict between the two.
However, this proactive stance towards North Korea could affect Seoul’s relationship with the US. Scott Synder, senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on US-Korea policy at the Council of Foreign Relations told Verdict:
[A Moon presidency] may mean greater frictions in US-South Korean relations and rising perceptions that [the country’s] leadership is not in sync with the US or able to deal effectively with North Korea.
Hong Jun-pyo is the candidate from Park’s own political party, named Liberty Korea Party.
He has been known to make offensive remarks, particularly about women and male treatment of women that has earned him the nickname “Hong Trump”.
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According to the Korea Herald, Hong has made notable rises in popularity in the most recent batch of polls that he is claiming has surpassed Moon in support and will come out victorious in the end thanks to conservative voters.
Tech entrepreneur-turned-politician Ahn Cheol-Soo is currently second in the polls to Moon as conservatives are looking to vote for him instead of supporting the progressive candidate’s stance on North Korea.
Ahn is anti-nuclear Korea after having previously said he wants to resume talks with Pyongyang, alongside China, the US, Japan and Russia, to attempt to resolve the issues of nuclear weapons and seek to freeze the North’s programme.
In addition, he has said he wants to increase laws that will punish white collar criminals and bring about legislation to prevent the hold the massive conglomerates, such as Samsung, have on the country’s economy.
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