World

S Korea's presidential front runner calls for unity

Liberal candidate Moon Jae In stresses better relations with the North

SEOUL The South Korean politician likely to emerge as the next president promised justice and common sense yesterday.

Leading in opinion polls to succeed Ms Park Geun Hye, Mr Moon Jae In is a liberal politician who advocates reconciliation with North Korea.

The Constitutional Court ruled on Friday to uphold a parliamentary vote to impeach Ms Park, dismissing her from office over an influence-peddling scandal that has shaken the country's political and business elite.

Ms Park, 65, is South Korea's first democratically elected leader to be forced from office.

She left the presidential Blue House yesterday and returned to her private residence in southern Seoul.

A presidential election will be held by May 9, Reuters reported.

Mr Moon told a news conference yesterday: "We still have a long way to go. We have to make this a country of justice, of common sense through regime change.

"We all have to work together for a complete victory."

If the power of candlelight has brought us this far, we now have to work together for a complete victory.Mr Moon Jae In, referring to weekly candlelit vigils that called for Park Geun Hye’s ouster

Mr Moon, the former Democratic Party leader, enjoys 36 per cent of popular support.

He said: "If the power of candlelight has brought us this far, we now have to work together for a complete victory."

He was referring to weekly candlelit vigils that called for Ms Park's ouster, AFP reported.

CRITICAL

Mr Moon has criticised two former conservative presidents - Ms Park and her predecessor, Mr Lee Myung Bak - for derailing the progress made in inter-Korean relations during the previous liberal administrations.

He calls for a "two-step" approach on North Korea, with talks leading first to "economic unification" and ultimately "political and military unification".

He stressed the need to "embrace and be united with" the North Korean people, while adding that he could never accept its "dictatorial regime", nor its trampling of rights.

Mr Moon denounced the North's "cruel and ruthless behaviour" in the wake of the murder in Malaysia last month of Mr Kim Jong Nam, the estranged half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But he told a news conference there was no choice but to recognise the latter as leader.

"We can't deny that the ruler of the North Korean people is Kim Jong Un.

"We have no choice but to recognise Kim Jong Un as a counterpart, whether we put pressure and impose sanctions on North Korea or hold dialogue," said Mr Moon.

A conciliatory line might face opposition from Seoul's main ally, the United States, where President Donald Trump's aides are pressing to complete a strategy review on how to counter North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.

North Korea conducted two nuclear tests last year, as well as numerous missile launches, the latest on March 6 when it fired four ballistic missiles into the sea off Japan.

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