Seoul, South Korea
Whoever wins South Korea’s presidential election on Wednesday will face a host of major issues, including soaring property prices, threats from nuclear-armed North Korea and a debate over how to heal a nation strongly divided along ideological, generational and gender lines.
Here’s what you need to know about the election to head the world’s 10th largest economy.
WHAT IS AT STAKE
The laureate will take office on May 10 for a single term of five years. Current liberal President Moon Jae-in is not allowed by law to seek re-election. The candidate who receives the most votes is declared the winner, even if he fails to gain majority support.
The current electoral system was adopted in 1987 when South Korea’s then military-backed government gave in to massive pro-democracy protests and agreed to sweeping liberalization measures.
The election boiled down to a showdown between ruling liberal Democratic Party candidate Lee Jae-myung and his opposition conservative rival Yoon Suk Yeol of the People’s Power Party. Both have been criticized for campaigning negatively and failing to present long-term visions on how to run South Korea.
Lee is a former governor of the populous Gyeonggi province that surrounds Seoul, while Yoon is a former attorney general who entered politics last year.
WHO CAN VOTE
About 44 million South Korean nationals aged 18 or over are eligible to vote, out of a population of about 52 million. Around 16 million of them have already voted in early voting last week.
Meanwhile, about 161,820 voters living overseas have also already voted in voting booths set up at South Korean diplomatic facilities. Tens of thousands more on remote islands, in nursing homes or on ships voted by mail or fax.
On Wednesday, polling stations are open from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Lee and Yoon bicker over North Korea’s nuclear arsenal and the escalating US-China rivalry.
Lee, who has often expressed nationalistic views, hopes to secure waivers from UN sanctions against North Korea to revive stalled inter-Korean economic cooperation projects. He also thinks Seoul could mediate between Washington and Pyongyang to revive dormant nuclear diplomacy.
Yoon said he would seek a stronger US security engagement to deter North Korean aggression. He wants to launch preemptive strikes on the North if he shows signs of attack.
While Lee favors a balance between Washington and Beijing – Seoul’s main security ally and biggest trading partner, respectively – Yoon has made it clear that a stronger alliance with the United States will be central. of its foreign policy.
Both promised to provide economic relief to small business owners affected by pandemic restrictions, provide millions of social housing units across the country and create more jobs.
The slander between Lee and Yoon involves many bizarre accusations aimed at the contestants and their families.
Yoon’s wife was forced to apologize because she was suspected of falsifying her work experience when applying for college teaching jobs. Lee’s wife also apologized for allegations that she used official funds privately and forced officials to do her personal shopping while her husband was governor of Gyeonggi.
Yoon attacked Lee over allegations that Lee was a central figure in a corrupt real estate development project started in Seongnam City when he was mayor there. Lee and his allies have tried to link Yoon to the scandal and have also accused the opposition candidate and his wife of relying too heavily on shamanism, an ancient religious belief.
Wednesday’s vote will take place as coronavirus infections rise. Patients infected with the virus and other quarantined people are allowed to vote when regular voting ends at 6 p.m. They are invited to vote in designated voting booths, while election workers will be equipped with gloves, masks, face shields and protective suits.
Organizing a voting process for virus carriers was crucial, with health authorities rapidly expanding home-based treatments to save hospital resources. On Monday, more than 1.15 million people with mild or moderate symptoms were asked to self-isolate at home.