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Korea - 2017 - Presidential Election

The Constitutional Court upheld the motion to impeach President Park Geun-hye in a unanimous decision by the court's eight justices. The National Election Commission mapped out a tentative calendar for the presidential election, which must be held within 60 days of the 10 Mach 2017 impeachment ruling. Candidate registration will likely take place over two days from April 15th to 16th. There are expected to be six days for overseas voting from April 25th to 30th. Early voting could happen from May 4th to 5th. The election, which will be designated as a holiday, is likely to take place on May 9th, with the polls open from 6 am until 8 pm.

In general, it is notoriously hard to predict the outcome of Korean presidential elections.On 09 December 2016 the National Assembly voted 234 to 56 in favor of the impeachment motion. The Constitutional Court would have to review the impeachment motion, which could take up to 180 days. If the motion is approved, lawmakers would then have 60 days to schedule a new election.

South Korean political heavyweights on 15 November 2016 demanded President Park Geun-hye step down or be impeached over a scandal involving Park's longtime confidante. Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the main opposition Minjoo Party and one of major presidential hopefuls, told reporters that he will initiate a nationwide campaign to let President Park step down, saying the campaign will last until the president declares her unconditional resignation. Moon said people's frustration, shown in Saturday's mass rally, cannot be cured only by Park's resignation, noting it is high time to replace the current era and overhaul the root of the country. Over a million South Koreans took to the streets in Seoul alone in the third weekend rally to demand Park step down.

Moon Jae-in said it would be his great honor to run as a candidate in the next presidential election. The 63-year-old progressive leader was chief of staff for President Roh Moo-hyun, who reportedly clashed with the Bush administration in the 2000s over his pro-engagement policies toward North Korea.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and Mayor Lee Jae-myung of Seongnam city in Gyeonggi province, who are two major presidential hopefuls of the main opposition party, welcomed Moon's proposal and expressed willingness to join the campaign. Ahn Cheol-soo, former chairman of the minor opposition People's Party, said that President Park's resignation is a way to save the country, urging the scandal-hit president to declare a political resignation before being investigated by prosecutors.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was very popular at home, where he did consistently well in polls of possible presidential contenders. He used to joke with U.N. reporters that he was the most famous South Korean until his compatriot, Psy, became a global YouTube sensation in 2012 with his Gangnam Style dance video.

Ban could face some stiff competition if he made a run for the Blue House, the Korean presidential residence. There were some strong potential candidates on the opposition side, including longtime candidate Moon Jae-in and former Seoul mayor Park Won-soon - who had not yet declared his intention to run - who might give Ban a tough fight were he to run on the conservative ticket. Third-party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo could also be a strong contender, and potentially a spoiler in the presidential race.

Korea's political circles began to prepare for election mode, zeroing in on the two most popular potential candidates for president, Moon Jae-in and Ban Ki-moon. Although the former UN Secretary-General hadn't explicitly said he's going to make a bid for the presidency or decided under which political party's banner he'd run, the parties are already adopting confrontational postures.

During a regular meeting of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, party chair Choo Mi-ae urged Ban to make the right choice, saying he should not allow himself to be used by the ruling bloc to evade responsibility for the current crisis through him.

The poll results on 16 January 2017 showed Moon Jae-in maintaining his slight lead over Ban at 26.1 percent. The poll was conducted by Realmeter on more than 25-hundred people over five days. Ban was closely trailing behind Moon, with some 22 percent. Following those two in terms of public support were the mayor of Seongnam, Lee Jae-myung, software tycoon and former minor opposition party leader Ahn Cheol-soo, and the governor of Chungcheongnam-do, Ahn Hee-jung.

President Park Geun-hye was expelled from office 10 March 2017. Leading American media outlets presented their outlooks on South Koreas presidential election and possible changes after former President Park Geun-hyes impeachment.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said that polls showed former chief of the Democratic Party Moon Jae-in is likely to win the presidential election, adding Moon is more skeptical of the United States foreign policy objectives in Northeast Asia and has doubts about the deployment of the U.S. THAAD antimissile system.

The New York Times (NYT) said that Moon wanted to seek dialogue with North Korea and is deeply skeptical of the hawkish stance by the conservatives and the United States. NYT said that Moon and his liberal partners are especially worried about the THAAD deployment, citing Chinas fury over it and warning of a standoff reminiscent of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The report hinted that if Moon is elected president, it wouldnt be easy for him to seek the so-called Sunshine Policy that was pursued by the governments of Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, citing that the Norths nuclear stockpile has grown significantly and the North is under the rule of unpredictable Kim Jong-un, who is obsessed with nuclear weapons.

The Washington Post article titled After impeachment, South Korea may reset relations with China and North Korea, saying Moon is a leading presidential contender citing polls. The paper said that even if Moon is elected president, he will face difficulties in backtracking on the THAAD deployment situation or returning to the sunshine policy.

Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in was the leading contender for president with a March 2017 Gallup poll approval rating of 31 percent. Ahn Cheol-soo, the leading candidate for the more centrist Peoples Party, was second in the Gallup poll at 19 percent.

The presidential race began in earnest 05 April 2017 as all five key political parties had now selected their candidates. Former cochairman of the Peoples Party Ahn Cheol-soo was chosen as the partys presidential nominee. Former chief of the Democratic Party Kim Chong-in also declared his candidacy. Democratic Partys presidential candidate Moon Jae-in promised fellow lawmakers of his party to create a unified election committee embracing all factions, asking DP Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae to head his camp.

Liberty Korea candidate Hong Joon-pyo said that the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye wasn't democracy, but a public trial. He said that if he is elected, the first thing he will do is to breathe life into corporations.

Hong Joon-pyo is a former prosecutor. He currently stands at nine percent in the Realmeter poll. In his party nomination acceptance speech he promised to be a resolute strongman who can stand up to pressure from the United States, China, Japan, North Korea and Russia. A strong supporter of THAAD Hong said if elected he would, immediately start discussions with the U.S. on the re-deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea.

In the early 1990s, the U.S. removed tactical nuclear weapons from South Korea and critics say reintroducing them would weaken international support for sanctions against the Norths nuclear program. Under the U.S. nuclear umbrella security arrangement, Washington promised to use its offshore nuclear arsenal to defend the South from an attack from the North.

Bareun Party candidate Yoo Sung-min said that he was the only candidate who possessed the philosophy and capability to overcome the nation's difficulties by engaging in politics fairly and righteously. Yoo also announced his security pledges. He vowed to deploy additional THAADs to upgrade the nation's antimissile defense system against North Korea.

The Bareun Partys presidential candidate Yoo Seong-min was only at three percent in the public approval poll. Once an aide to ex-President Park, Yoo successfully ran as an independent for the National Assembly where he voted for impeachment and then went on to establish his rival conservative party. Yoo also supports the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea to deter the Norths nuclear advancements. And on THAAD, Yoo said one anti-missile battery is not enough.

By early April 2017, now that the parties had settled on their presidential candidates, opinion polls were fluctuating. Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea, was still in the lead in a five-way race but Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party was fast catching up, almost within the margin of error. And Ahn's group had some new momentum. In a battle between just the two of them, Ahn actually beats Moon 47 to 40 percent -- almost a majority. That's mainly because Ahn absorbed the support of most primary voters whose candidates did not make it through, including his own competitors within the People's Party, as well as those of Ahn Hee-jung of the Democratic Party and even Nam Kyung-pil of the Bareun Party. But when asked who is most likely to win the presidency six out of ten Koreans still believed Moon has the best shot. That's nearly triple Ahn's figure of just 24 percent.




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