All you need to know about South Korea’s new president
South Korea’s incoming president Yoon Suk-yeol, a political novice, shot to public attention as a prosecutor for his investigations into the country’s most high-profile corruption scandals.
He is set to lead the world’s 10th-largest economy in a different foreign policy direction and has vowed to abandon years of delicate diplomacy to get tough on North Korea.
Yoon Suk-yeol in Seoul in 1960, the president studied law and went on to play a significant role in convicting former president Park Geun-Hye for abuse of power.
He became the country’s top prosecutor in 2019. He indicted a top aide of outgoing President Moon Jae-in over bribery and fraud in a case that tarnished the government’s upstanding image.
However, he has won a close election by the narrowest margin ever. The president has already backed off his most controversial promises on the campaign trail – including finishing the Ministry of Gender Equality.
Experts say that his lack of legislative experience would prove costly as he faces a Democratic Party-controlled Assembly that will scrutinize his policies.
Yoon became the conservatives’ “political icon” because he was “seen as the most suitable person to beat the Democratic Party candidate, despite his less political leadership experience,” said a sociology professor at Stanford, Gi-Wook Shin.
“That does not go well with Korean democracy as we may expect further polarization,” he said.
South Korean politics is adversarial, analysts say, where presidents have served just a single term of five years.
Every living ex-leader has been jailed for corruption after being removed from office.
Yoon fired up support among disgruntled conservative voters by giving them a chance at “revenge” against Moon. He went so far as to threaten to investigate Moon for financial “irregularities”.
Even Yoon’s wife said his critics would be prosecuted if her husband emerged victorious because that is “the nature of power”, according to comments released after a court battle.