SEOUL: The man tipped to become South Korea’s next president was formally nominated Monday as candidate of the main opposition party, and promised “justice” in a nation rocked by the impeachment of its former leader.
Moon Jae-In, the left-leaning former chief of staff to late president Roh Moo-Hyun, became the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer for the poll on May 9.
It was called after Park Guen-Hye was removed from the presidency over a corruption scandal which led to her arrest Friday.
Moon, known for his softer stance on North Korea, has suggested Seoul should engage with Pyongyang.
His conservative critics say he could also loosen South Korea’s longstanding alliance with the United States, which bases 28,500 troops in the country.
The 64-year-old former human rights lawyer promised to “start a new history with the Korean people” after securing a total of 57 percent of the votes in nationwide primaries for his party.
“This presidential election is not a showdown between conservatives and liberals but a choice between justice and injustice,” said Moon in his acceptance speech.
Moon was narrowly beaten in the 2012 presidential election by Park and his party has been out of power for almost 10 years.
But this election looks set to give him a strong chance at power, with opinion polls suggesting he has a commanding lead.
A Realmeter survey published Monday put him on 34.9 percent, with his nearest rival, former software tycoon Ahn Cheol-Soo, trailing far behind at 18.7 percent.
In December Moon said that if elected, he was willing to visit North Korea ahead of the United States, the South’s security guarantor.
He also vowed to recognize North Korea’s strongman leader as his dialogue partner. “We can’t deny that the ruler of the North Korean people is Kim Jong-Un.”
In an interview with the New York Times, Moon called the alliance with Washington “a pillar of our diplomacy” but said South Korea should learn to “say ‘No’ to the Americans.”
A US missile defense system is being deployed to the South in the face of threats from the North, infuriating Beijing, which has imposed a series of measures seen as economic retaliation.
Moon has been ambivalent about the issue, saying it needed to be carefully handled as it would bring the South “both gains and losses.” AFP