Asan Korea Perspective

Presidential Election and National Security

Moon Jae-in emerged as the Together Democratic Party’s presidential candidate with 57% of the votes, beating out Ahn Hee-jung (21.5%) and Lee Jae-myung (21.2%).1 Moon’s victory was widely expected given that he maintained the highest approval rating among all candidates.

Moon’s biggest challenge will come from Ahn Cheol-soo, who won the People’s Party’s nomination on Apr 4. He commanded 75.01% of the votes, ahead of Sohn Hak-kyu (18.07%) and Park Joo-sun (6.92%).2 Ahn’s approval rating has soared in the past two weeks with one recent Gallup poll showing Ahn behind Moon by only 3%p.

The two conservative parties, the Righteous Party and the Freedom Korea Party, elected Yoo Seong-min and Hong Jun-pyo, respectively. Yoo (62.9%) defeated Nam Kyung-pil (37.1%)3 while Hong (54.15%) was the overwhelming favorite over Kim Jin-tae (19.3%), Lee In-jae (14.9%) and Kim Gwan-yong (11.8%).4

The above four candidates will be joined by Shim Sang-jung from the Justice Party and Kim Jong-in, who recently left the TDP and announced that he will run as an independent. Many see Kim’s announcement as an effort to prevent Moon from becoming the next president.5

Presidential Candidate Approval Rating6


The decisive factor in this year’s election will be how the conservative voters will cast their vote in May. Will they coalesce around a single candidate or will they split their votes among two or three candidates? Which one(s)? Or will they decide to not vote at all?

With a month left until the election, candidates have begun to announce their campaign platform. See below for a snapshot of their official positions on foreign policy and national security.7


Dealing with North Korea
On Apr 5, two days before the U.S.-China Summit, North Korea launched an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) known as KN-15 into the East Sea.8 This was the fourth missile test in 2017. The Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the act and warned that these tests would only lead to negative consequences for North Korea.9 Despite the strong rhetoric, many were expecting some kind of provocation from the North given the on-going ROK-U.S. joint military exercises and President Trump’s meeting with President Xi. Apr 15 also happens to be Kim Il-sung’s birthday.

Presidential Election and the Economy

President Park’s impeachment has elevated the issue of economic reform to the national stage. Presidential candidates have pledged to toughen corporate regulations in different ways (see below).10 The business community is concerned that these moves would jeopardize growth, which has slowed in recent months.11

Park Geun-hye and Corruption
Former President Park Geun-hye was arrested on March 30. She is facing 13 criminal charges, including corruption. Park has denied these charges but she is likely to remain incarcerated and questioned until April 19th.12

The prosecutors are also investigating Lotte and SK.13 These cases are different from that of Samsung in that there were no fund transfers to Choi’s foundations. SK reportedly negotiated the amount but failed to make the transfer. Lotte was reported to have donated KRW 7 billion but the money was returned before Seoul Central Prosecutors’ investigation began last September. The case against these two companies are weaker than that of Samsung.14

Party Approval Rating15, 16


Will you vote in the upcoming presidential election?17

Contributing Staff(in alphabetical order): Han Minjeong, John J. Lee
Editor: J. James Kim

  • 1.

    “문재인, 민주당 대선후보 확정 … 경선 누적 득표율 57%,” 한겨레, 2017년 4월 3일.

  • 2.

    “국민의당 대선후보에 안철수 … 대선 대진표 확정,” 한겨레, 2017년 4월 4일.

  • 3.

    “유승민, 바른정당 대선후보 확정,” 경향신문, 2017년 3월 28일.

  • 4.

    “홍준표, 자유한국당 대선 후보로 확정 … 54.15%,” 중앙일보, 2017년 3월 31일.

  • 5.

    “김종인, ‘反文연대’ 질문에…’文이 뭐 그리 대단하다고?”’,” 중앙일보, 2017년 4월 5일.

  • 6.

    Gallup Korea, date: Apr 4-6; sample size 1,005; margin of error: +3.1 at the 95% confidence level.

  • 7.

    “5당 대선후보 공약 비교,” 연합뉴스, 2017년 4월 4일.

  • 8.

    “北, 동해상으로 탄도미사일 1발 발사…60여 km 비행,” 동아일보, 2017년 4월 5일.

  • 9.

    “외교부, ‘북, 자멸 앞당길 것’ 탄도미사일 발사 강력 규탄,” 경향신문, 2017년 4월 5일.

  • 10.

    “[5당 대선후보 공약] ②경제•복지분야,” 연합뉴스, 2017년 4월 4일; “경제계 ‘공약 알고 찍자’ 적극 행보,” 동아일보, 2017년 3월 28일; ”‘저성장 늪’ 빠진 한국, 뜬구름만 잡는 대선주자들,” 한국일보, 2017년 3월 29일; “육아휴직 3년ㆍ칼퇴근법 등 ‘따뜻한 정책’-유승민의 정책탐구,” 한국일보, 2017년 3월 28일; “[대선주자 공약해부①] 안철수 “재벌개혁 단행”…공정성장론 강조,” 시사오늘, 2017년 4월 6일; “[대선주자 정책검증]심상정의 재벌개혁과 월급 300만원 시대,” 경향신문, 2017년 3월 4일.

  • 11.

    “박용만 상의 회장, 대선 후보에 경제계 목소리 전달,” 한국금융신문, 2017년 4월 6일.

  • 12.

    “檢, 박근혜 자백 끌어내는 데 집중…내일 구치소에서 재조사,” 서울경제, 2017년 4월 4일; “朴, 2차 구치소 조사서도 혐의 전면 否認,” 문화일보, 2017년 4월 6일; “검찰, 박근혜 뇌물혐의 ‘쐐기’…구속연장해 이틀마다 조사(종합),” 연합뉴스, 2017년 4월 7일.

  • 13.

    “이재용 구속시킨 검찰, 롯데•SK 수사도 박차,” 한겨레, 2017년 3월 31일.

  • 14.

    “삼성만 ‘뇌물죄’ 적용… 그래도 불안한 SK•롯데,” 국민일보, 2017년 3월 30일; “SK•롯데는 강요피해자?… 檢, 막판 검토,” 문화일보, 2017년 3월 28일.

  • 15.

    Gallup Korea, date: Mar 28-30; sample size 1,010; margin of error: +3.1 at the 95% confidence level.

  • 16.

    Gallup Korea, date: Apr 4-6; sample size 1,005; margin of error: +3.1 at the 95% confidence level.

  • 17.

    Gallup Korea, date: Apr 4-6; sample size 1,005; margin of error: +3.1 at the 95% confidence level.