South Korea elects former top prosecutor Yoon Suk-yeol as next president

Yoon beat out the ruling party's Lee Jae-myung by a close margin.

March 9, 2022, 2:34 PM

South Korea elected Yoon Suk-yeol, of the conservative People Power Party, as its 20th president on Wednesday. Yoon claimed victory in a tight race against Lee Jae-myung, of the ruling Democratic Party.

“I learned a lot while carrying out the campaign, what is needed to be a leader of a country, how to listen carefully to the people," Yoon said in his victory speech. "This election process and competition are all for the people. Election is over now, and we need to be all one for the people and our Republic of Korea,” he said as supporters cheered and chanted “regime change”.

Results show a close race with 48.56% of ballots going to Yoon, and Lee garnering 47.83%.

PHOTO: Yoon Suk Yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party speaks during a presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2022.
Yoon Suk Yeol, the presidential candidate of the main opposition People Power Party speaks during a presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2022.
Lee Jin-man/AP

About 77% of South Korea’s 44 million eligible voters cast ballots in this election, according to the country's National Election Commission. Yoon will replace President Moon Jae-in.

Yoon jumped into politics last June after a 27-year career as a prosecutor. He achieved fame during his career for his aggressive prosecution of political players, including former President Park Geun-hye.

He is well-known for his quote at a parliamentary inquiry after prosecuting his own boss, then-Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn, in 2013 -- “I am not loyal to the person but loyal to the organization.”

Moon appointed Yoon as the prosecutor general in 2019 to lead a national political campaign to investigate corruption, but Yoon spent most of his term going after President Moon’s ruling party officials, ministers and presidential aides.

PHOTO: Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2022.
Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party, speaks during a presidential election campaign in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2022.
Yonhap via AP

Yoon’s break with Moon intensified after indicting Moon’s then-closest aide and former justice minister, Cho Kuk, in 2019 on several charges including bribery and document fraud. That angered Moon’s supporters and Yoon eventually stepped down from position amid political pressure.

He was courted by the People Power Party last year to run for the presidency.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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