News Backgrounder: South Korea’s Presidential Election
If your main source of news is mainstream American media, you may have no idea that Asia’s third largest economy, a country the size of France, located in a geopolitical hotspot, has an election this week for President. That is despite the top two candidates being neck-and-neck in the polls and the presence of dramatic issues, including the use of anti-feminism by the opposition, security concerns with neighboring North Korea and China, and debates on placing of weapons.
Sadly, this is the norm for South Korea. In 2016 and 17, there were massive, months-long protests against then-President Park Guen-hye, leading to her impeachment and imprisonment – but apparently, they weren’t worthy of US media attention.
Here’s the situation: Current President Moon Jae-in can’t run due to the country’s single-term limit rule, so the the race pits his center-left parties successor, Lee Jae-myung, against the conservative candidate Yoon Seok-yul, who is seen as a slight favorite right now. It has been called Korea’s nastiest election due to scandals, low public trust, and mudslinging (Hying-A Kim, The Diplomat). Election Day is March 9th, and results should be available either that evening Korea time, or the following morning.
This Asia Undercovered Backgrounder aims to fill the massive gap in western media coverage, bringing together regional reporting on the elections, the key issues, and why they matter; from gender equality, security, to whether Korea will take a stronger stand on China.