- Moon Jae-in
- Early life and education
- Early career of Moon Jae-in
- Political career before the presidency (2012–2017)
- 2017 presidential election
- Presidency (2017–present)
- Electoral history
- Personal life
|President of South Korea|
10 May 2017
|Prime Minister||Hwang Kyo-ahn
Yoo Il-ho (Acting)
|Preceded by||Hwang Kyo-ahn (Acting)|
|Leader of the Democratic Party|
9 February 2015 – 27 January 2016
|Preceded by||Ahn Cheol-soo
|Succeeded by||Kim Chong-in|
|Member of the National Assembly
30 May 2012 – 29 May 2016
|Preceded by||Chang Je-won|
|Succeeded by||Chang Je-won|
|Chief Presidential Secretary|
12 March 2007 – 24 February 2008
|Preceded by||Lee Byung-wan|
|Succeeded by||Yu Woo-ik|
|south korean president|
|Born||(1953-01-24) 24 January 1953
Geoje, South Korea
|Alma mater||Kyung Hee University (LLB)|
|Service/branch||Republic of Korea Army|
|Years of service||1975–1977|
|Rank||Sergeant (Korean: Byeongjang)|
|Revised Romanization||Mun Jaein|
Moon Jae-in (Hangul: 문재인; Hanja: 文在寅; Korean pronunciation: [mun.dʑɛ̝.in]; ) is the current President of South Korea. Moon was elected after the impeachment of his predecessor, Park Geun-hye in the 2017 South Korean presidential election.
A former student activist, human rights lawyer, and chief presidential secretary to then-President Roh Moo-hyun, Moon Jae-in once served as leader of Minjoo Party of Korea (2015–2016) and a member of the 19th National Assembly (2012–2016). He was also a candidate of the former Democratic United Party in the 2012 presidential election in which he lost narrowly to Park Geun-hye.
Early life and education
Born in Geoje, South Korea, Moon Jae-in was the first son among five children of father Moon Yong-hyung and mother Kang Han-ok. His parents were refugees from South Hamgyeong Province (currently in North Korea) who fled their native city of Hungnam during the Hungnam evacuation.
His family eventually settled in Busan and Moon attended Kyungnam High School. He enrolled in Kyunghee University where he majored in law. Moon Jae-in was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned and expelled from the university after he organized a student protest against the Yushin Constitution. Later, he was conscripted into the military and assigned to the South Korean special forces, where he participated in “Operation Paul Bunyan” during the Axe murder incident.
After his discharge, he passed the Bar Exam and was admitted to the Judicial Research and Training Institute. Moon Jae-in graduated second in his class but was not admitted to become a judge or government prosecutor due to his history of activism against the Yushin dictatorship under Park Chung-hee’s rule as a student. Moon chose to become a lawyer instead.
Early career of Moon Jae-in
Human rights attorney
After becoming a lawyer, Moon Jae-in partnered and worked with future President Roh Moo-hyun in the 1980s. Along with Roh, he took cases involving human rights and civil rights issues defending labor rights activists and students persecuted for opposing Korea’s then military dictatorship. They remained friends up until Roh’s suicide in 2009.
Moon Jae-in was a member of Minbyun and the Chairman of Human Rights at Busan Bar, as well as a founding member of the progressive South Korean newspaper, The Hankyoreh, in 1988.
Roh Moo-hyun administration
Due to Roh’s insistence, Moon Jae-in became Roh’s campaign manager during his presidential bid After Roh’s victory, Moon became Roh’s chief presidential secretary and close aide holding various roles in a presidential administration. Moon held roles as Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs, Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Society, Senior Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs, and Chief Presidential Secretary (equivalent to Chief-of-Staff) from 2003-2008.
Moon was also the chairperson of the Promotion of the 2nd North-South Korea Summit.
When prosecutors began investigating Roh’s corruption charges that led to impeachment proceedings, Moon Jae-in was the legal counsel to Roh. After Roh committed suicide, Moon was in charge of the funeral and handling his private affairs. Moon revealed that his favorite nickname was “Roh Moo-hyun’s shadow” indicating his close relationship to the former president and law colleague. His exposure to the public as a poised and trustworthy aide impressed the public and many liberals in Korea found Moon to be an attractive candidate against the conservative Saenuri Party candidate Park Geun-hye.
Political career before the presidency (2012–2017)
Entrance to politics
Despite his earlier indifference, Moon Jae-in began to get involved in politics. He published a memoir called Moon Jae-in: The Destiny which became a bestseller. His popularity had been rising steady against the likely opponent in the presidential race, Park Geun-hye. For instance, in a February 2012 poll, Moon managed to gain parity with Park in popularity.
Moon managed to capitalize on the conservatives’ decline in popularity amid a series of corruption scandals. As one pundit said, “Moon Jae-in had managed to portray himself as a moderate and rational leader who has the backing of the younger generation”.
2012 general election
In 2012, Moon Jae-in entered a bid for a seat in the National Assembly in the 20th legislative election. Moon won a seat in the Sasang District of Busan on 11 April 2012 as a member of the Democratic United Party with 55% of the vote.
2012 presidential campaign
On September 16, 2012, Moon received the presidential nomination for the Democratic United Party.
He ran for the 2012 presidential election as the Democratic United Party’s candidate in a three-way race against Park Geun-hye, the incumbent ruling party’s candidate and daughter of the late president Park Chung-hee, as well as independent software mogul Ahn Cheol-soo. Ahn dropped out of the race and endorsed Moon Jae-in after polls showed a most likely definitive loss for both candidates were there to be a three-way race against Park. Moon went to lose the election.
Leader of the Democratic Party
Moon was elected as the leader of New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) on February 2, 2015. Prior to his election, Moon and NPAD party leader and 2012 presidential candidate rival Ahn Cheol-soo had many public disputes over the direction of the party.
Moon’s official role led Ahn Cheol-soo to quit and form the centrist People’s Party. Ahn’s departure and Moon’s new tenure as party leader led to the newly renaming the liberal, NPAD Party as the new Democratic Party.
During his leadership, Moon Jae-in scouted several politically prominent people, including police studies/criminology expert Pyo Chang-won, political critic Lee Chul-hee, and former president Park’s secretary Cho Ung-chun to prepare for upcoming 2016 legislative elections. After his recruitment, Moon resigned his position for another scouted advisor/former Park advisor Kim Chong-in.
2017 presidential election
Primary and general election
Moon was considered the frontrunner to win Korea’s 2017 presidential election, which would be the 19th term of the country’s presidency, following the Impeachment of Park Geun-hye.
He won the Democratic Party’s nomination against fellow party members Ahn Hee-jung, Lee Jae-myung, and Choi Sung with 57% of the votes.
The general election originally had 15 announced candidates. Moon faced four other major party nominees during the election, including 2012 presidential rival and past party colleague Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party and Hong Jun-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party. He was elected the 19th President of South Korea in Korea’s 19th presidential election by a large plurality over two other major opponents, conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo.
On May 10, 2017, Moon Jae-in ended his campaign by winning 41.1% votes (with 13,423,800 votes) to win the plurality of votes. As Moon was elected at a special election, he did not have the 60 days of transitional period of previous administrations, but was instead inaugurated the day after the election.
Campaign positions on domestic policy
Moon came out in favor of repealing Korea’s national security laws, which have been alleged by the Korean liberals to be a tool of the historically right-wing establishment of South Korea to restrict and oppress left-wing voices in Korean politics. He also promised to abolish the domestic wing of NIS (National Intelligence Service) in order to maintain their political neutrality, transferring domestic affairs to the police force.
Moon’s campaign promise in 2017 included intentions to put a 10 trillion won ($8.9 billion) fiscal stimulus to support job creation, start-ups, and small to mid-sized companies. His announced goal is to create 810,000 public sector jobs through raising taxes on the wealthy.
Moon’s policy against corporate corruption, specifically in regards to Korean conglomerates in chaebols is to give “minority shareholders more power in electing board members” of the companies.
Moon also promised transparency on his presidency, moving the president residence from palatial and isolated Blue House to an existing government complex in downtown Seoul.
In a televised presidential debate, Moon Jae-in said he opposes homosexuality, in response to conservative candidate Hong Jun-pyo’s remarks that gay soldiers were a source of weakness in the South Korean military. Moon’s remark prompted immediate criticism during the debate from Sim Sang-jung, the sole presidential candidate to support LGBT rights and a member of the leftist Justice Party. The conservative remark also prompted outrage from gay rights activists, considering Moon’s representation as the leading liberal candidate and former human rights lawyer. Some of Moon’s supporters dismissed the comments as a necessity to win, as South Korea tend to be conservative in social issues. Moon later clarified his comments suggesting he still believes there should be no discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Campaign positions on foreign policy
Moon has favored a peaceful reunification between the two Koreas. He was both widely criticized and widely praised for his comments stating that his first visit if elected president would be to visit North Korea, a visit that would be not unlike Roh Moo-hyun’s visit to the country in 2007. Similarly, Moon’s foreign policy towards North Korea is considered to closely align with the Sunshine Policy embraced by former liberal presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun.
His 2017 presidential campaign has supported re-opening of the Kaesong Industrial Park.
Moon’s relatively liberal stance in foreign policy is reflected in his writing in a book: “I’m pro-U.S., but now South Korea should adopt diplomacy in which it can discuss a U.S. request and say no to the Americans.” He opposes a re-balance of the security alliance with the United States, but has also stated that he would like South Korea “to be able to take the lead on matters on the Korean Peninsula.” At the same time, Moon has stated that he considers America as a “friend” for its role in helping South Korea avoid communism while helping its economic growth.
Moon was sworn into office immediately after official votes were counted on May 10, replacing Acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. There was no transition period between the election and inauguration, unlike other presidential elections due to the nature of an election following a presidential impeachment. Moon Jae-in will serve out the typical single five-year term with his presidential term concluding in 2022.
Moon’s predecessor and daughter of Park Chung-hee, Park Geun-hye, originally planned to mandate usage of state-issued history textbooks in 2018. Moon Jae-in reversed these plans in May 2017 in one of his first major acts as president. Critics of Park’s original plan saw this as a way for Park to mitigate some representations of her father’s oppressive policies under a dictatorial rule, only highlighting the positive accomplishments of the past. Park had stated she wanted to replace the “left-leaning” books with those created from the government that would instill greater patriotism. Although the Park government had switched its official position on requiring the textbooks and allowed schools to choose the state-issued version from the backlash, Moon’s action scrapped the program altogether. Schools will continue to choose privately published, government-approved textbooks written under educational guidelines instead.
Animal Rights/Adoption of “First Dog”
Moon had promised during his campaign to adopt a dog from an animal sanctuary. This was considered relevant to South Korean politics as the country allows for consumption of dog meat. His administration adopted Tory, a four year old black mongrel who was saved from a dog meat farm, from an animal rights group. The move was considered to send “a strong message against the [dog meat] trade.”
Moon’s administration has focused on increasing South Korea’s consumption of natural gas, away from nuclear and coal as sources of energy. These plans include delaying construction on nuclear reactors as well as re-opening dialogue around a natural gas pipeline that would come from Russia and pass through North Korea.
Moon visited the United States to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump in June 2017, discussing U.S.-Korea trade relations as well as North Korea’s missile programs. Moon revealed in a joint news conference that President Trump accepted an invitation to visit South Korea.
Moon highlighted the importance of the process leading to unification with international companionship and Cooperation and a long-term project rather than detailed plans. Moon also agreed with sanctions to North Korea, but also he believes that it is crucial to establish a peace treaty with North Korea to end the Korean War officially in exchange for denuclearization.
Moon opposed the full deployment of THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) systems during his presidential campaign and called for more peace talks engaging with North Korea.
As of late July, following North Korea’s latest missile launch and increasingly aggressive actions, Moon asked the U.S. permission to build up its domestic defense systems and temporarily set up a full THAAD system.
|Election||Year||Position||Party Affiliation||Votes||Percentage of votes||Results|
|19th General Election||2012||National Assembly Member (Busan, Sasang District)||Democratic United Party||65,336||55.05%||Won|
|18th Presidential Election||2012||President||Democratic United Party||14,692,632||48.02%||Lost (2nd)|
|19th Presidential Election||2017||President||Democratic Party of Korea||13,423,800||41.08%||Won|
Moon married Kim Jung-sook, a vocalist from the same university he attended. He and Kim both individually revealed in separate Korean talk shows that they both met each other when Moon was a student activist protesting the Yushin Constitution.
Moon is currently the second Roman Catholic leader after the late former President Kim Dae-jung. His baptismal (or Christian) name is “Timothy”.
Moon is nicknamed the “Dark King” (Hangul: 명왕; Hanja: 冥王; RR: Myeong-wang), after the character Silvers Rayleigh from the Japanese manga series One Piece. The nickname comes from Moon’s alleged resemblance to Rayleigh.