Yoon Suk-yeol – from prosecutor to South Korean president

Candidate Yoon Suk Yeol of the People’s Power Party (PPP) won a spectacular victory over candidate Lee Jae Myung of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK). From a prosecutor, Yoon Suk-yeol became the new president of the Republic of Korea.

Yoon Suk-yeol - from prosecutor to South Korean president

“This is the victory of the great Korean people,” Yoon Suk-yeol told supporters, after winning by less than 1% of the vote in the presidential election.

The new president, who will take office in March, is tasked with shaping South Korea – Asia’s fourth-largest economy in the next five years, and mending a country “more divided than ever.”

Out of about 99.8% of the votes counted, Yoon Suk Yeol won 48.6% of the votes, higher than the 47.8% of the votes that candidate Lee Jae Myung had.

Yoon Suk-yeol - from prosecutor to South Korean president
Yoon Suk-yeol – the new South Korean president

Lee Jae Myung admitted his defeat and congratulated his opponent.

Yoon Suk-yeol - from prosecutor to South Korean president
Lee Jae Myung of Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) admitted his defeat

Yoon Suk Yeol affirmed that he will consider “national unity” a top priority, as well as working with opposition parties to heal the divided politics.

Mr. Yoon was born in Yeonhui-dong, Seodaemun district of Seoul on December 18, 1960, in an intellectual family. 

  • His father, Yoon Ki-joong, once founded The Korean Statistical Society and is currently a member of The National Academy Of Sciences Republic Of Korea
  • His mother was a lecturer at Ewha Womans University.

Mr. Yoon graduated with a law degree from Seoul National University. He started his career at the Daegu High Prosecutors’ Office in 1994 and was in charge of the investigation department of corruption-related cases.

Yoon Suk-yeol - from prosecutor to South Korean president
Yoon Suk Yeol started his career as investigator of corruption-related cases

Mr. Yoon married Mrs. Kim Kun-hee in 2012.

Ms. Kim, 49, is currently the director of Covana Contents (an art exhibition company). There is currently no information about the children of the new South Korean president and his wife.

Mr. Yoon rose to fame when he investigated the National Intelligence Service (NIS) for manipulating information on the Internet to shape public opinion in favor of the conservative party before the 2012 election. 

He sought to prosecute the leader of NIS for election interference, as well as accusing his boss, Justice minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (charged with interfering with the investigation).

This frankness also led to Mr. Yoon being demoted to work at a prosecutor’s office in a rural area until former President Park Geun-hye (Moon Jae-in’s predecessor) was impeached.

After President Moon Jae-in took office, Mr. Yoon was appointed chief of the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office. In this role, he helped complete the years-long trial of Park Geun-hye.

He campaigned for the presidency with a message of fairness, justice, principles and the rule of law, and increased criticism of the policies of outgoing President Moon Jae-in.

Yoon Suk-yeol - from prosecutor to South Korean president
Kim Kun-hee – the new First Lady of South Korea

In January, his wife, Kim Kun-hee, caused controversy when she threatened to “imprison all reporters” who criticized her husband, even claiming that if her husband was elected, the media would be banned, and prosecuted by her husband’s future administration. 

Previously, Mrs. Kim had publicly supported a former politician who is now in prison for rape and insulting the #MeToo movement.

However, thanks to the image built from his investigations, Yoon Suk-yeol still won.

Yoon Suk-yeol - from prosecutor to South Korean president
Yoon Suk Yeol: “national unity a top priority”

This is the closest vote margin in South Korean presidential election history. 

But enough to help Yoon Suk-yeol bring the conservative People’s Power party back to power after five years of Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) rule.

Yoon’s victory is expected to bring about major changes in South Korea’s role in East Asia and relations with the US, China, and North Korea.

While outgoing President Moon Jae-in has made diplomacy with North Korea at the heart of his foreign policy, Yoon has called for more cooperation with Washington D.C. to counter the nuclear threat from Pyongyang.

“Now our competition is over. We must join hands and unite as one for the people and the country,” Mr. Yoon said in his victory speech. He thanked and comforted Mr. Lee and other opponents.

According to a survey conducted from February 6 to 11 by Realmeter with 3,040 voters:

  • The support rate for Lee Jae Myung was 39.1%
  • Yoon Suk Yeol at 41.6%,
  • People Party‘s candidate Ahn Cheol Soo won 7.7%
  • followed by Justice Party‘s Sim Sang Jung with 2.8%.

The White House congratulated Mr. Yoon Suk-yeol and looked forward to strengthening the US-South Korea alliance.

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