Image copyright Reuters Image caption Mr Moon favours greater dialogue with North Korea, a change to current policy The outcome of South Korea’s presidential contest, while not quite an electoral landslide, certainly represents a seismic shift in the country’s political centre of gravity.
Moon Jae-in’s success in winning the contest with some 41% of the vote, while not a foregone conclusion, confirmed the expectations of many observers that the population would move leftwards rejecting the trend of the past eight years that has seen conservative candidates occupying the presidential residence, or Blue House, since 2008.
At 64 years old, Mr Moon’s personal biography epitomizes South Korea’s progressive politics and the civic activism that shaped the democratization movement that transformed the country in the 1980s and 1990s.
The eldest son of North Korean refugees who fled south in 1950 at the height of the Korean War, Mr Moon grew up in poverty, and like many of his generation spent his student days actively protesting against the authoritarian government of Park Chung-hee who dominated the country from 1961 to 1979.
Trained as a human rights lawyer, Mr Moon spent the 1980s working with Roh Moo-hyun – another progressive lawyer, who would himself go on to become president in 2003 – opposing the military regime of Chun Do-hwan, Mr Park’s successor.
The personal connection with Mr Roh allowed Moon Jae-in to secure a ring-side seat in the Roh administration, ending up acting at the president’s chief of staff and paving the way for his eventual rise to prominence as the lead of the Democratic Party, the country’s main opposition force.
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Mr Moon’s experience of challenging the establishment has made him the natural candidate for the broad cross section of Koreans who pushed for the impeachment of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye (the daughter of the former dictator), now incarcerated and on trial for a range of offences including seeking to extort $70m (
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