Illustration by Jam Moreno

The "Unlikeable Election" — South Korea’s Messy Presidential Race

South Korea is on track to elect a new president but none of the candidates seems promising, at least in being scandal free. From shamans to corruption to problematic wives, we bring you the country’s latest political fiasco.

Mar 7, 2022

As students may have surmised from posters around campus, the upcoming South Korean Presidential election will take place soon on March 9, 2022.
No election is simple. South Korea is familiar with this fact — as well as with political scandals. The previous President, Park Geun-hye, was impeached in 2017 over a myriad of accusations of abuses of power.
Unfortunately, the peninsula country cannot seem to free itself from these political issues, which have also plagued this particular presidential election.
No matter who wins, there will be major implications for the country and for its relationship with its neighbors. Minority party New Liberal Democratic Union candidate, Kim Gyeong-Jae, for example, recently sparked outrage on Chinese social media platform, Douyin, as a speech he gave gained attention, as discussed below.
This speech, roughly translated from Chinese, goes: "All of the over a million Chinese people should quickly be sent back to China. These people have caused the rise of too many of society’s problems. Take all the positions and residences owned by those Chinese people and give them to our youth and our citizens." This video has since been removed, but it represents many online clashes between Korean and Chinese netizens in recent years over culture and politics.
However, Kim Gyeong-Jae is just a minority candidate. The two most prominent candidates are Lee Jae-Myung and Yoon Seok-Yeol, from the Democratic Party and the People Power Party, respectively. The current president, Moon Jae-in, is also from the Democratic Party, a relatively liberal party within South Korea.
Both major candidates have suffered from the accusation of having a Korean shaman as a key figure within their campaign, which is also one of the accusations against former President Park Geun-hye. Lee Jae-Myung was accused of swindling and corruption on a massive scale and now three men whom the public believes to possess incriminating information regarding this issue have died. His son also got involved in a gambling scandal.
The conservative People Power Party candidate, Yoon Seok-Yeol, also had a scandal where his wife’s phone conversations were leaked, which discussed about #MeToo victims in a negative light. His wife has been at the center of a few other issues in his campaign as well, including exaggerating her career history and academic plagiarism.
These are only a few of the scandals with which this election has been so rife. The election has been dubbed "the unlikeable election" given the high disapproval rating of both candidates. Despite being a relative newcomer to politics, Yoon Seok-Yeol is currently leading the polls at the time of writing, but it is a very close race. The world will be watching as South Korean citizens choose their next president.
Chloe Eoyang is Deputy News Editor. Email her at
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