Yesterday was the presidential election day in South Korea and the past few weeks had indicated that it would be a tight race between the two main contestants – Lee Jae-myeong from the democratic party and Yoon Seok-yeol from the conservative people’s power party (yes that name, I know). There were other contenders but none of them had any viable chance of winning, so although Korea is a country with multiple political parties, presidential elections tend to be a choice between a candidate from either the liberal or the conservative bloc. Now, I always find it hard to comment or opine on other countries’ politics. Not because I don’t have opinions – believe me I do – but more because I’m not sure that it’s my place to do so. But well, since this is my blog and I can write whatever I want I’ll share my opinions and those who do not care to read them are welcome to look away.

I’m personally a left-leaning centrist who believes in the importance of coming together as a nation when making big decisions. For that reason, I find it problematic when nations show a deep divide like we have seen with the US and now also witness in Korea. Yesterday the conservative candidate Yoon won the election with the smallest margin in the country’s history – 0.7%. This is a testament to a country deeply divided across age and gender with particularly older people and the infamous voter demographic idaenam – men in their 20s –favoring the right-wing ideology. I was disheartened to see Korea make a turn for the right at this election and even more so, I was sad to see the clear division among the Korean electorate.

Still, a part of me understands the hard choice Koreans had to make yesterday. While I’m definitely no fan of president-elect Yoon, I also had my apprehensions about Lee who certainly was not without faults. However, from a “choosing the lesser of two evils” perspective, I would have voted for Lee in order to prevent Yoon from rising to power. To me, Yoon’s promises (or threats depending on where you stand) to abolish the ministry of gender equality and family, the minimum wage law, and the 52-hour workweek limit sound quite ominous, and it will be interesting to see how Korea will fare under his leadership for the next five years. In this case, I consider it encouraging that the Korean constitution mandates only one five-year term per president with no possibility for reelection.

For all my Korean language enthusiasts I thought I’d share some election-related vocabulary that you will likely encounter when reading about this election.

대선 (대통령 선거)Presidential election
당선되다/낙선되다to be elected/to lose an election
선거운동election campaign
투표하다to vote
유권자voter, person with voting rights
개표ballot count
정권교체change of government
출구조사exit poll
투표율voter turnout
여당/야당party in power/opposition party
초박빙too close to call
접전tight race
표차margin (vote difference)

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