In the narrowest margin between Presidential candidates, Mr Yoon Suk-yeol won the March 9th Presidential elections. With 48.56% of the vote as opposed to Lee Jae-myung’s 47.82% the 20th contest was the closest race to date. The narrow margin represents a divided country given the considerable difference between the declared policy of the two candidates. Mr Yoon’s campaign was based on a shift from strategic balance between China and the US to a swing to the US and more surprisingly Japan. Yoon proposed to hold back on carbon neutrality measures , and reduce government policies to promote specific industries and generally shift back from government intervention in the economy and allow businesses to make their own choices including allowing them to sleep their way through the coming five years.
Domestically Mr Yoon prefers the private sector to handle housing (and no more public housing) and to remove regulations to let construction companies build in more places, while reducing taxes. Socially he promoted young men over young women and proposes to abolish the current Ministry of Gender Equality and make a new Ministry with a very muted role. Early poll results showed women under 50 voted for Mr Lee and men under 50 for Mr Yoon. Above 60 70% of both sexes voted for Mr Yoon.
Mr Yoon faces a National Assembly with 170 DP members and 110 PPP members until 2024, and just under half of the population who preferred the Moon-Lee line. Next will come the local elections for cities, provinces and governors in June, and we will see if the PPP wave continues or whether the division is perpetuated.
Much will depend on who Mr Yoon proposes as key Ministers and what role Ahn Chul-soo whose withdrawal at the 11th hour and subsequent silence should get some reward, for had he not withdrawn it seems likely that Yoon could not have won.
On March 8th 12 of us met to discuss the impact of the Ukraine war. At that moment we were not aware that Russia had just declared South Korea an unfriendly country and did not know that Biden would target Russian oil and gas which will make Korea’s energy imports more expensive. We will develop our analysis in addition to the discussion of the election.
Join us to share your views on March 17th – still only online as infections surge higher.
Tony Michell Ph.D
Managing Director, KABC Ltd.