|12th President of South Korea|
|Assumed office |
May 10, 2017
|Prime Minister||Hwang Kyo-ahn|
Yoo Il-ho (Acting)
|Preceded by||Park Geun-hye|
Hwang Kyo-ahn (Acting)
|Leader of the Democratic Party|
February 9, 2015 – January 27, 2016
|Preceded by||Moon Hee-sang (interim)|
|Succeeded by||Kim Chong-in (interim)|
|Member of the National Assembly|
May 30, 2012 – May 29, 2016
|Preceded by||Chang Je-won|
|Succeeded by||Chang Je-won|
|Chief of Staff to the President|
March 12, 2007 – February 24, 2008
|Preceded by||Lee Byung-wan|
|Succeeded by||Yu Woo-ik|
|Born||January 24, 1953|
Geoje, South Gyeongsang Province, South Korea
Kim Jung-sook (m. 1981)
|Education||Kyung Hee University (LLB)|
|Religion||Roman Catholic (Christian Name: Timothy)|
|Branch/service||Republic of Korea Army|
|Years of service||1975–1978|
|Rank||Sergeant (Korean: Byeongjang)|
|Unit||Army Special Warfare Command|
|Battles/wars||Operation Paul Bunyan (Supporting member in the rear)|
|Revised Romanization||Mun Jaein|
|IPA||mundʑɛin or mun t͡ɕɛin|
Moon Jae-in (Korean: 문재인; Hanja: 文在寅; Korean pronunciation: [mun.dʑɛ.in];[a] born January 24, 1953) is a South Korean politician and human rights lawyer serving as President of South Korea since 2017. Prior to this, he served as chief of staff to then-president Roh Moo-hyun (2007–2008), leader of the Democratic Party of Korea (2015–2016) and a member of the 19th National Assembly (2012–2016).
Born to North Korean refugees, Moon was raised in poverty in Busan. Moon excelled in school and studied law at Kyung Hee University. While he was there, he became involved in human rights activism and was imprisoned for organizing a protest against the Yushin Constitution. Moon, a longtime friend of liberal president Roh Moo-hyun as a result of his work in human rights law, was chosen to be Roh's campaign manager in his successful 2002 presidential bid and served in his administration in various official capacities.
In 2012, Moon was a candidate for the Democratic United Party in the 2012 presidential election, in which he lost narrowly to Park Geun-hye; Park was aided in this election by security services. He was elected after the impeachment of Park Geun-hye as the candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea in 2017. As president, Moon Jae-in achieved international attention for his meetings with North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un at inter-Korean summits in April, May, and September 2018, making him the third South Korean president to meet their North Korean counterpart. On June 30, 2019, Moon met with both North Korean chairman Kim Jong-un and United States president Donald Trump at the Korean Demilitarized Zone.
Moon is a liberal who favors a peaceful reunification with North Korea. On economic policy, Moon favors reform of chaebols (conglomerates) and has raised the minimum wage by more than 16 percent and lowered the maximum workweek from 68 to 52 hours. Moon's response to the COVID-19 pandemic has received praise domestically and internationally and helped his party win a historic victory in the 2020 legislative election.
Early life, education and military service
Upon the end of the Korean War, Moon Jae-in was born in Geoje, South Korea as the second child and oldest son among five children of father Moon Yong-hyung and mother Kang Han-ok. His parents were refugees from South Hamgyeong Province, North Korea who fled their native city of Hungnam during the Hungnam evacuation during the Korean War. His father, Moon Yong-hyung, worked as head of agriculture department who detains food, especially rice of Korean colonial people as one of the main tasks at the Heungnam, Hamju, South Hamgyong Province.
His family eventually settled in Busan. Since his father did not want to become a government employee, as he had been in North Korea, his father started a business selling socks, which left his family in great debt. His mother became the main earner by selling clothes received from relief organisations and delivering briquettes. Moon's family became attached to the Catholic Church when his mother went to the local cathedral to receive whole milk powder. Moon once said in an interview that he didn't know how to ride a bike since his family was too desperately poor to afford a bike or monthly school tuition.
Moon entered Kyungnam High School as the top of his class. He was accepted to study law at Kyung Hee University with a full scholarship. There he met his future wife, Kim Jung-sook. After organising a student protest against the Yushin Constitution, he was arrested, convicted, imprisoned and expelled from the university. 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 in Panmunjom.
After his discharge, the death of his father influenced him to decide to take the bar exam. He went into Daeheungsa, the Buddhist temple, to study for the exam and passed the first of two rounds in 1979. In 1980 he returned to the university to complete his remaining year of studies. Later that year, he passed the second round and was admitted to the Judicial Research and Training Institute. He graduated from the Institute as the second in his class but was not admitted to become a judge or state prosecutor due to his history of activism against the Yushin dictatorship under Park Chung-hee's rule as a student. Moon chose to go into private practice instead.
Human rights lawyer
After becoming a lawyer, he partnered and worked with future president Roh Moo-hyun in the 1980s. Along with Roh, he took cases involving the labor rights issues and became renowned for his work in labor human rights. They remained friends up until Roh's suicide in 2009.
Roh Moo-hyun administration
Yielding to Roh's insistence, Moon became Roh's campaign manager during his presidential bid. After Roh's victory, Moon became Roh's 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 and Chief Presidential Secretary from 2003–2008.
When the National Assembly voted to impeach Roh in 2004, Moon led the legal delegation for Roh at the Constitutional Court and won the case.
Moon, as Roh's chief of staff, led the preparation committee of the 2nd Inter-Korean Summit but did not attend the summit.
Political career before the presidency
Entrance to politics
Despite his earlier indifference, he 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 rivaled Park in popularity.
Moon managed to capitalize on the conservatives' decline in popularity amid a series of corruption scandals. As one pundit said, "Moon 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 entered a bid for a seat in the National Assembly in the 19th legislative election. Moon won a seat in the Sasang District of Busan on April 11, 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 after polls showed a most likely definitive loss for both candidates were there to be a three-way race against Park. Moon went on 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 renaming the liberal, NPAD Party as the new Democratic Party.
During his leadership, Moon 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
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.
On May 10, 2017, Moon won the election with a plurality of 41.1% votes (out of 13,423,800 votes nationwide). As Moon was elected in a special election, he did not have the usual 60-day transition period of previous administrations, but was instead inaugurated the day after the election.
Campaign positions on domestic policy
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 known as "chaebols " is to give "minority shareholders more power in electing board members" of the companies.
In a televised presidential debate, Moon 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 left wing 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 Koreans tend to be conservative in social issues. Moon later clarified his comments suggesting that he still believes there should be no discrimination based on sexual orientation while opposing legalizing same-sex marriage.
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.
Moon's relatively liberal stance in foreign policy is reflected as he is quoted 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.
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Moon was sworn into office immediately after official votes were counted on 10 May, 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. He will serve out the typical single five-year term with his presidential term concluding in 2022.
South Korea's economic growth has been attributed in large part to Chaebols, or family-owned conglomerates. Prominent examples of conglomerates include Samsung and Hyundai, concentrated power (collusion), connections with the government including most recently the 2016 Choi Soon-sil scandal which ultimately led to the special election Moon won. Moon subsequently appointed "chaebol sniper" Kim Sang-jo, a well-known shareholder activist, to the role of fair-trade commissioner aimed at reforming chaebols.
His government has launched a series of minimum wage hikes. One of these was in 2018, which raised the minimum wage by 16.4% from the previous year to 7,530 won (US$6.65) an hour. The income of the lowest 20% of earners fell by 3.7% in the second quarter of the year the increase was implemented compared with the same period last year.
Maximum hour work week
The maximum hour work week was reduced from 68 to 52. In October 2018, a study conducted by a telecommunications firm found that in central Seoul the amount of time people spent in or near their workplace fell by 55 minutes, and time spent of leisure activities went up in residential areas. However, they found little to no change elsewhere in the country. Bars and restaurants in central Seoul reported a loss in business.
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 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 responded to backlash by switching its official position on requiring the textbooks and allowing schools to choose the state-issued, 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. He 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. At the event on June 19, 2017 marking the end of operations at South Korea's oldest nuclear reactor, Kori Unit 1, Moon outlined his plan for the future of energy in Korea, saying "we will abandon the development policy centered on nuclear power plants and exit the era of nuclear energy." This would be implemented by canceling plans for new nuclear power plants and not renewing licenses for operating plants. In addition, he shut down eight coal-fired power plants upon assuming office in May 2017, and pledged to shut down the remaining ten coal plants by the end of his term. In the long term, he envisioned renewable sources would eventually be able to meet Korea's demand, but in the interim, proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a stopgap measure while coal and nuclear were taken offline in the coming decades.
More than 1.5 million South Koreans have signed a petition to impeach Moon over what they claimed was the government's mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak in South Korea. In response, more than 1.3 million South Koreans have signed a petition to support Moon in just two weeks over what they claimed was the government's capable control of the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, an opinion poll conducted between March 5, 2020 to March 6, 2020 by Embrain, a public polling company, has shown that 53% of the public have a positive evaluation of President Moon's handling of the coronavirus crisis. An opinion poll by Gallup Korea in the first week of March 2020 showed Moon's approval rating rising by 44% to 67%, due to public's approval of the Moon's administration's handling of the outbreak.
According to the Yonhap News Agency, James Kim, the Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea stated that "Korea is proactively and transparently dealing with COVID-19. The confirmed cases are surging in Korea, due to the country’s well-prepared testing procedures compared to other countries."  CNBC's Matt McCarthy, a New York City doctor, praised Moon's government work on solving the coronavirus crisis, stating that "South Korea had been able to test tens of thousands of people. With the country’s aggressive testing efforts, Korea’s death toll from the disease is less than 1%, while the global average is 3.4%. This is thanks to the government’s early preparation for the outbreak of infectious diseases."
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.
Outlining his North Korea strategy in a speech in Berlin, Germany, on July 6, 2017, Moon characterized the process leading to unification as a long-term project, rather than laying out any detailed plans for a unified Korea. He emphasized alliance with the United States and specified the need to assure dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear weapons program. At the same time he presented the question of unification in a regional context and signaled his hopes of working in cooperation with the international community. He supported sanctions against North Korea, while leaving open the possibility of their being rescinded, and indicated 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.
Kim and Moon met again on 26 May. The second meeting was also at the DMZ, this time on the North Korean side of the Panmunjom village. The meeting took two hours. The meeting had not been publicly announced beforehand. The meeting was largely centered around the cancelled summit with Donald Trump.
In September 2018, Moon Jae-in visited Pyongyang in the September 2018 inter-Korean summit. He and 150 delegates—including prominent figures in business, culture, and religion—flew to the Sunan Airport in Pyongyang and met with Kim Jong-un. The two Korean leaders announced an agreement to decrease hostilities on the DMZ, further joint-economic projects, and open North Korean weapons facilities to international experts. The leaders also gave a speech to 150,000 North Korean citizens in the Rungrado 1st of May Stadium with themes of unification, lasting peace, and friendship. Moon also climbed Mount Paektu with Kim, which had been a "long unfulfilled dream" for him.
In January 2019, South Korea's unemployment rate hit 4.5%, the highest number observed for the month of January since 2010, while the youth unemployment rate, which tracks Koreans aged 25–34 who have not secured jobs, reached its highest in South Korea in 19 years. According to Statistics Korea, 338,000 young Koreans were unemployed in July 2018. The number is the highest since youth unemployment marked 434,000 in 1999, as the nation was still recovering from the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. Some experts said the current Moon Jae-in government's purportedly pro-labor policies, including the raise in minimum wage, which led The Wall Street Journal to call President Moon Jae-In's economic program "Asia’s most radical left-wing", and reduction of maximum weekly work hours from 68 to 52, may be contributors to the increasing number of Koreans unable to find jobs.
In November 2018, the Financial Times reported that President Moon Jae-In replaced Kim Dong-yeon, finance minister, by Hong Nam-ki, an economic policy official currently serving in the prime minister's office, and Jang Ha-sung, presidential chief of staff for policy. The two officials had themselves clashed in recent weeks, with Mr. Kim pushing to depart from Mr. Moon's trademark “income-led growth” policy that seeks to create a virtuous cycle of increased incomes, consumption and employment. Mr. Jang, considered the architect of the trickle-up policy, publicly disagreed with Mr. Kim. The reshuffle sets the stage for new economic ideas "in a nation that is struggling to transition away from its once-successful manufacturing model".
|Election||Year||Position||Party Affiliation||Votes||Percentage of votes||Results|
|19th General Election||2012||Member of the National Assembly
(Sasang District, Busan)
|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|
- Atlantic Council: Global Citizen Awards (2017)
Allegations of Election Fraud in 2020 General Election
The Democratic Party and its satellite, the Platform Party, won a landslide victory under the Moon administration in the 2020 South Korean legislative election. But the election faced criticism from foreign press and some former South Korean officials for suspicion of possible election fraud. Prof. Walter Mebane, Jr. of the University of Michigan published a report detailing evidence of possible fraud. Mebane wrote, "Taken together the eforensics estimates and EFT and spikes tests exhibit anomalies that strongly suggest the Korea 2020 legislative election data were fraudulently manipulated." 
On May 13, 2020, protests against election fraud took place at Seoul National University and Korea University.  At Gangnam Station on May 15-17, 2020, South Korean citizens protested the election results. These protests became known in the media as the "Black Protests," named for the all-black clothing worn by the protestors. 
Opposition politician Min Kyung-wook spoke out against the election results, alleging Chinese interference and influence within the Moon administration. The Diplomat reported, "Min cited the fact that ballots were sorted by machines that were connected online, which allowed operators to communicate with outsiders. He believes this opened the door to Chinese interference." The National Election Commission denied these allegations.
On June 10, 2020, the South Korean news site East Asia Research Institute began circulating a letter of former government officials protesting the elections as "rigged." Signatories included former South Korean ambassadors to Vietnam, Russia, Turkey, Norway, Malaysia, Peru, Nepal, Kenya, Israel, and Portugal. It was also allegedly signed b Kim Suk-woo, Former Vice Minister of Ministry of Unification. 
In September 2015, Moon sued former prosecutor Koh Young-ju for libel in response to a statement he had made during Moon's campaign in 2013. Koh had been quoted as calling Moon a "communist."  As a public figure, Koh had been noted for his investigation into the Burim incident, where he investigated five alleged communists who were later convicted of violating the anti-Communist National Security Law. On August 23, 2018, Seoul Central District Court Judge Kim Kyung-jin. Koh lauded the ruling as a victory for freedom of speech in South Korea.  But on June 2, 2020, the case was appealed. The prosecutor representing Moon is seeking one and a half years of jail time for Koh. 
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 met each other when Moon was a student activist protesting the Yushin Constitution.
Moon and Kim now live with at least four dogs and a cat at the Blue House.
Before elected as the president in 2017, they lived with several dogs and cats who were all once abandoned by their previous guardians. Among those, a dog Maru (마루, a Pungsan dog) and a cat Jjing-jjing (or Jjing-Jjing-ee 찡찡 or 찡찡이) have been confirmed to live with them at the Blue House either by the media or its official social media posts. Jjing-jjing is the country's first-ever "First Cat."
After settling in at the official presidential residence at the Blue House, a dog Tory (토리, a mixed-breed) was adopted from an animal shelter in contrast with other "First Dogs" who have traditionally been purebred Jindo dogs. In regards to Tory's adoption, Moon stated that "we need to pay more attention to abandoned animals and care for them as a society" and that he wanted to remove the stigma against Tory's dark coat, which contributed to him being virtually un-adoptable for two years after he was rescued in 2015.
He also received a pair of Pungsan dogs male Song-gang (송강) and female Gom-ee (곰이) from North Korean counterpart Kim Jong-un as a gift shortly after meeting in September 2018. Gom-ee later gave birth to six puppies San-ee, Deul-ee, Gang-ee, Byul-ee, Dal-ee and Hen-nim (산이, 들이, 강이, 별이, 달이 and 햇님) named after Korean words for parts of nature - a mountain, grass field, a river, a star, the Moon and the Sun. On August 30, 2019, six puppies have been sent to Seoul, Incheon, Daejeon and Gwangju leaving their parents at the Blue House.
Moon is the third Korean president who is a Catholic, after the late former presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun (a lapsed Catholic), as well as his wife, First Lady Kim Jung-sook. He is the second leader who remains a practicing Catholic while in office; his baptismal (or Christian) name is Timothy.
- In Korean, the given name Jae-in is pronounced [t͡ɕɛ.in] in isolation.
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Moon Jae-in, a liberal politician and a leading Minjoo (Democratic Party) personality,leads the polls and is the prospective next President of South Korea.
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- Media related to Moon Jae-in at Wikimedia Commons
- Works written by or about Moon Jae-in at Wikisource
- Quotations related to Moon Jae-in at Wikiquote
- Moon Jae-in Camp (in Korean)
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|National Assembly (South Korea)|
| Member of the National Assembly
from Sasang District
|Party political offices|
| Leader of the Democratic Party
| Chief Presidential Secretary
| President of South Korea