South Korea has just elected their new President this year in their country. In what was dubbed as the closest presidential race ever to happen, the conservative party People Power Party candidate, Yoon Suk-yeol, beat his rival Lee Jae-myung from the ruling Democratic Party.
Read on to find out 10 facts about Yoon, the newly-elected president of South Korea, and the reasons why he won the hearts of South Koreans.
1. Yoon Suk-yeol
Yoon was born on December 18, 1960. He was born in the capital city, Seoul, where he attended Seoul National University. Here, he studied law and was infamous for acting as the prosecutor in a mock trial that advocated for the death penalty of Chun Doo-hwan, the then President of the Republic shortly after the Gwangju Uprising.
The Gwangju Uprising was an uprising that occurred in Gwangju, South Korea, in the year 1980 where conflict arose between armed citizens, soldiers, and police of the Korean government. It began when students from a local university were beaten by government troops after they demonstrated against the martial law government.
That makes Yoon no stranger to political movements at least.
2. Born to University Educator Parents
Yoon’s parents were both educators. His father was a retired educator who later established the Korean Statistical Society and is currently a full member of the National Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Korea.
(Just think of it as an exclusive academia club consisting of Korea’s best scientists and scholars.)
His mother, on the other hand, used to be a lecturer at Ewha Woman’s University before leaving the job after getting married.
3. Exempted from Compulsory Military Service
Yoon was exempted from conscription in South Korea as he has anisometropia. This means that his eyes have unequal refractive power, resulting in one eye being nearsighted and the other eye being farsighted. The condition is so rare that it is said that only about 0.1% of the population will have this health condition.
This condition also prevents Yoon from being able to attain a driving license as well.
4. Failed The Bar Exam for Nine Years
Yoon passed the first round of the law bar exams in his forth year of university. However, he continued to fail at the second round for the next nine years before passing in the year 1991 and began his career as a prosecutor in 1994.
Talk about having resilience.
5. Stellar Career After Passing the Bar
Yoon became a force to be reckoned with after he became a prosecutor in 1994. Yoon headed the Special Branch and Central Investigation Department which were in charge of investigating corruption-related cases.
Eventually, he became notorious as an anti-corruption investigator that went after some of South Korea’s most rich and powerful. The most high-profile case includes the 2016 Choi Soon-sil scandal which led to the arrest and eventual impeachment of then-President Park Geun-hye.
His stellar track record as a prosecutor doesn’t end there—he also succeeded in going after the head of Samsung and a former chief justice of the South Korea Supreme Court on charges of corruption.
Now you know why he’s such a popular figure.
6. Beginnings of Political Career Under President Moon Jae-in
Yoon became known amongst South Koreans after being known to be the leader of Moon’s anti-corruption campaign which aimed to eradicate the corruption and cronyism that existed within South Korea.
However, things began to turn sour when the team of prosecutors under Yoon’s leadership started to investigate allegations made against the president’s political allies which includes former justice minister, Cho Kuk.
This was when Yoon’s ties with the Democratic Party changed for the worse and he began his pivot to the conservative opposition party. The conservative party began to sing praises of his work even though they vilified him prior by calling him the Democratic Party’s political henchman.
In 2021, Yoon stepped down from his position as prosecutor general and won the presidential nomination from the main conservative People Power Party.
7. First Former Prosecutor to Become President
Yoon’s win in the presidential race makes him the first-ever former prosecutor to become President in the political history of South Korea.
However, Yoon has since drawn criticism due to his lack of experience in party politics, foreign policy, and other state affairs which could spell danger to South Korea’s precarious position between the United States and China.
Yoon is also known for being harsh in his management of relations with North Korea.
Different from past president Moon Jae-in’s method of engagement with the North, Yoon’s administration has since adopted a harsher approach which made clear that they will demand the North to de-nuclearise before any talks on sanctions relief.
8. Great Support From Anti-Feminists
Even though Yoon’s own mother was an established educator, the president has actively pursued the support of anti-feminists.
This was shown in Yoon’s major campaign to abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family as he claims the institution was unfair to men.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family was set up with the objective to plan and coordinate gender-related policies as well as expand women’s participation in society. Furthermore, it also acts to prevent sex trade and protect victims of domestic and sexual violence in South Korea.
The president has also promised that he would raise the penalty for false reports made concerning sex crimes.
9. In Favour for 120-Hour Work Weeks
As if 44 work-hours were not bad enough, the newly-elected president disregarded previous president Moon’s policy on work-life balance and said that workers should be allowed to work 120 hours per week if they wished.
For those of you who are too tired to do the math—that’s the same as working five 24-hour days.
That takes being a workaholic to a whole new level.
10. Confident About US Alliance
Another stark difference Yoon had shown in comparison to previous candidates was the lack of the balancing act put up to appease both world powers, the US and China.
Yoon made it clear during his campaigns that he would prioritise South Korea’s bond with the US first as they “have fought together to protect freedom against the tyranny of communism.”
This statement was followed by Yoon proclaiming that he would seek the instalment of a second anti-ballistic missile system, a move that multiple critics have pointed out would incur criticism from China.
So yes, he would be treating North Korea and China differently…should he stay on track with his promises, that is.
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Featured Image: YouTube (KOREA NOW)
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