Yoon Suk-yeol Elected President on Slimmest of Margins

  • By Cho Yi-jun

    March 10, 2022 09:31

    Yoon Suk-yeol of the main opposition People Power Party won Korea's presidential election by a wafer-thin majority on Wednesday, beating rival Lee Jae-myung of the ruling Minjoo Party 247,077 votes or 0.73 percentage points.

    Yoon won 48.56 percent over Lee's 47.83 percent percent. Sim Sang-jung of the minor Justice Party came a distant third with 2.37 percent of protest votes.

    Although Yoon managed to achieve a change of government, his razor-thin lead means he will be ruling on sufferance of the Minjoo Party, which has a super-majority in the National Assembly.

    Yoon Suk-yeol speaks at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday after being elected president. /Newsis

    Yoon showed up at PPP headquarters at around 4:30 a.m. when his win seemed assured, and described it as a "victory of the great people." He added, "I will consider national unity as my top priority."

    The campaign was an "election of the unfavorables" as the two leading candidates remained neck and neck while they slung mud at each other over various scandals while the big questions remained unanswered.

    The MP seemed to have a lead in early vote counts, with Lee up about 10 percentage points at one stage, but that soon evaporated, and Yoon achieved his turnaround after midnight.

    The former prosecutor-general scraped to the narrowest victory since Korea introduced direct presidential elections in 1987. In 1997, leftwing candidate Kim Dae-jung defeated conservative rival Lee Hoi-chang by just 1.6 percentage points.

    Lawmakers and other officials of the People Power Party congratulate president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol (center) at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday. /News1

    Lee had a solid lead in Incheon and Gyeonggi Province, where he used to be governor, as well as South Jeolla Province, which is the progressives' traditional stronghold. He was also ahead in the administrative city of Sejong and Jeju Island. But Yoon did better in Seoul, Busan, Ulsan, and the Gyeongsang and Chungcheong provinces.

    Yoon put a lot of effort into wooing voters in the southwest but was unable to overcome entrenched regionalism.

    Lee conceded defeat around 4:00 a.m. at party headquarters. "I offer my congratulations" to Yoon, he said, but urged him to open "an era of unity and harmony by transcending division and conflict."

    "I tried my best, but was unable to live up to expectations. This is all because of my shortcomings," he added. "The great Korean people displayed democratic awareness through a high voter turnout despite the coronavirus crisis. Korea will continue to advance."

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