South Korean presidential election, 2012

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South Korean presidential election, 2012
South Korea
← 2007 19 December 2012 (2012-12-19) 2017 →
Turnout 75.84%
  Korea President Park UN 20130506 01 cropped.jpg Moon Jae-in (2017-10-01) cropped.jpg
Nominee Park Geun-hye Moon Jae-in
Party Saenuri Democratic United
Popular vote 15,773,128 14,692,632
Percentage 51.6% 48.0%

South Korean presidential election 2012.svg
provinces and cities won by

– Park Geun-hye

– Moon Jae-in

President before election

Lee Myung-bak

Elected President

Park Geun-hye

Emblem of South Korea.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Republic of Korea

The 18th South Korean presidential election was held in South Korea on 19 December 2012. It was the sixth presidential election since democratization and the establishment of the Sixth Republic, and was held under a first-past-the-post system, in which there was a single round of voting and the candidate receiving the highest number of votes was elected. Under the South Korean constitution, presidents are restricted to a single five-year term in office. The term of incumbent president Lee Myung-bak has ended on 24 February 2013. According to the Korea Times, 30.7 million people voted with turnout at 75.8%. Park Geun-hye of the Saenuri party was elected the first female South Korean president with 51.6% of the vote opposed to 48.0% for her opponent Moon Jae-in.[1] Park's share of the vote was the highest won by any candidate since the beginning of free and fair direct elections in 1987.[2]

In 2017, following Park's impeachment and removal from office, Moon would go on to succeed her as the 12th President of South Korea following a second, successful bid for the presidency.


Lee Myung-bak was elected President of South Korea in 2007 as the nominee of the conservative Grand National Party after a closely contested primary in which he narrowly defeated Park Geun-hye, and assumed office in February 2008.[3] His victory brought to a close ten years of liberal administration under Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. The Lee Myung-bak government pursued the reduction of government bureaucracy and a laissez-faire economic policy,[4] and came under criticism from the left for political scandals and controversial policies such as the Jeju-do Naval Base and its support of the South Korea-United States Free Trade Agreement, although both were initiated under the previous administration.[5][6] Despite the fact that he was elected in a landslide victory and received initial approval ratings of 70%,[7] Lee's ratings had declined to below 30% by 2012.[8]

At the end of 2011, Park Geun-hye assumed control of the Grand National Party, which was subsequently renamed the Saenuri or New Frontier Party in February 2012.[9] She distanced herself from Lee and led the party towards the center.[10][11] In legislative elections in April 2012, Park guided the party to an upset victory, returning its majority in the National Assembly.[12] This contributed to an increase in her poll ratings and consolidated her position as frontrunner for the Saenuri nomination.[13]

Opposition to Saenuri is divided primarily between the Democratic United Party and independent supporters of Ahn Cheol-soo, who has emerged as a leading potential candidate despite his ostensible silence on the race.[14] In the DUP, focus initially lay on Sohn Hak-kyu as a potential nominee, but by late 2011 Moon Jae-in, a confidant of former president Roh, had overtaken Sohn in polls.[15] Although the DUP invited Ahn to join the party,[16] only 2.3% of respondents to a poll on 21 April thought that Ahn was best suited to be DUP nominee.[17] The DUP itself has been troubled by the split between pro-Roh members such as Moon Jae-in and the "Honam wing" of former president Kim Dae-jung, represented by Chung Dong-young.[18]

Registered candidates[edit]

Ballot numbers for party candidates were given according to the candidate's party seat distribution in the National Assembly. Ballot numbers for independent candidates were determined through a random lottery by the National Election Commission.

1 2 3 (Resigned) 4 5 6 7
     Saenuri      Democratic United      Unified Progressive      Independent      Independent      Independent      Independent


Democratic United Party[edit]

Nominated candidate[edit]

Democratic Party (South Korea, 2011)
Democratic Party candidate
Moon Jae-in
Moon Jae-in May 2017.jpg
Member of the
National Assembly
(2012– )


The 2012 Democratic United Party presidential primary saw an open primary system implemented for the first time. This new open primary introduced "mobile voting"; it was hailed as a "revolution in voting" because people could participate in voting more conveniently. However, controversies persisted during the primary elections, as questions of the legitimacy and trustworthiness of the voting results were raised.[19] The official result was announced on 16 September 2012, at 15:32 KST, naming Moon Jae-in the presidential candidate from the Democratic United Party.[20] After nominated, Moon stated that he would like to join forces with Ahn Cheol-soo.[21]


Member of National Assembly from Busan Sasang-gu('gu' means district)
4th Chief of staff in Roh Moo-hyun administration
Slogan: People come first
Member of National Assembly from Seoul Jongno-gu
Slogan: Waiting For Tomorrow
Former Governor of South Gyeongsang (although it was not mandatory, he resigned after announcing his primary candidacy.)
Slogan: Equal Nation
Former Governor of Gyeonggi
Slogan: Life With Dinner (for labor)


Candidate Place Votes Percentage
Moon Jae-in Nominated 347,183 56.5%
Sohn Hak-kyu 2nd 136,205 22.2%
Kim Doo-kwan 3rd 87,842 14.3%
Chung Se-kyun 4th 43,027 7.0%
614,257 100%

Saenuri Party[edit]

Nominated candidate[edit]

Saenuri Party
Saenuri Party candidate
Park Geun-hye
Park Geun-hye (8724400493) (cropped).jpg
Leader of the
Saenuri Party


Member of National Assembly from Proportional Representation No. 11 of Saenuri Party
Acting First Lady of Park Jeong-hee
Slogan: A Country where my dreams can come true. / Female President in ready
Former Chief of staff of Lee Myung-bak administration
Slogan: No worries with Yim Tae-hee.
Member of National Assembly from Gimhae Eul(Radical 5, 乙) (Gimhae's 2nd congressional district)
Previous Nominee for Prime Minister in 2010
Slogan: Change For Old Politics, Starting New Generation
Former Mayor of Incheon
Slogan: Country with no debts
Governor of Gyeonggi
Slogan: Freely! Korea.


The official result was announced at Saenuri Convention, which took place on 20 August 2012 at 05:40 KST, nominating Park Geun-hye as the presidential candidate for the Saenuri Party.[22]

Candidate Place Votes Percentage
Park Geun-hye Nominated 86,589 83.97%
Kim Moon-soo 2nd 8,955 8.68%
Kim Tae-ho 3rd 3,298 3.20%
Yim Tae-hee 4th 2,676 2.69%
Ahn Sang-soo 5th 1,600 1.55%
103,118 100.0%


The first member of the Saenuri Party to officially announce their candidacy was Kim Moon-soo on 22 April. Kim, a former labor activist, stated in his announcement that he would focus on combating regional and socioeconomic divides, emphasized his commitment to a policy of multiculturalism, and argued for a revision in Saenuri's primary system. He stated further that Park Geun-hye's leadership of the party represented only an "ambiguously prevailing trend", and could not be relied upon to reach victory in the elections.[14] Although Kim said that he was "convinced" he could "attract more support than [Park]", he was not widely expected to garner a high level of support. His early announcement was regarded as an attempt to preemptively form an anti-Park faction in the party.[23]

Chung Mong-joon, a billionaire and longstanding member of the National Assembly, followed on 29 April. In his announcement, Chung emphasized the need to confront regionalism and factional politics, and stated that he would "write a new history of the Republic of Korea by facilitating [his] experience of managing a business, engaging in diplomacy and creating unity in the nation". He stressed that his task was to "bring together the divided hearts of the people" and that he was concerned that the "country could collapse in its current situation".[24] Like Kim Moon-soo, Chung is expected to be at a disadvantage to Park.[24] Chung previously declared his candidacy in the 2002 presidential elections but later dropped out to endorse Roh Moo-hyun.[25]

The former Mayor of Incheon, Ahn Sang-soo, declared his candidacy on 6 May, emphasizing his economic credentials and stating that he would relieve the burden of debt.[26] Former presidential Chief of Staff Yim Tae-hee followed on 8 May, issuing a call for Park Geun-hye to act as a "kingmaker" that was interpreted as a request for her to step aside.[27] Yim, a moderate, proposed to join hands with independent Ahn Cheol-soo and DUP frontrunner Moon Jae-in in a bid to "demolish outdated politics".[28] On 10 May, five-term lawmaker and former Minister for Government Legislation and Special Affairs Lee Jae-oh announced his bid, promising to reform the constitution and cut his term as president to three years.[29]

The campaign for the Saenuri primaries has been characterized by a dispute between Park Geun-hye, as frontrunner and party leader, and her opponents in the party. She was cited in 2009 as the most influential politician in South Korea,[30] and has outranked other candidates in many polls throughout 2012,[31] though as of early May 2012 she is yet to officially declare her candidacy.[26] Park's opponents have called for Saenuri to adopt an open primary system rather than the present system based on an electoral college and opinion poll results.[32] At the end of April the Democratic United Party suggested a joint discussion on the issue of fully open primaries.[33] Park has been criticized for her taciturn and authoritarian style in leading the party, and Kim Moon-soo described her as overly "secretive".[32] Chung Mong-joon stated that under Park's leadership, "democracy in the party [had] gone missing".[34] Park strengthened her position when her ally Lee Hahn-koo was elected Saenuri's floor leader on 9 May.[35]

During a primary debate on 7 August 2012, primary candidate Kim Tae-ho asked if Park Geun-hye would agree that the May 16 coup by her father (Park Chung Hee) was both a coup and a “necessary decision,” regarding Park's previous stance that the overthrow was a “revolution to save the country”. Park confirmed her stance by answering, “I don’t think it’s the place of politicians to be fighting over whether [the May 16 incident] were a ‘coup d’etat’ or a ‘revolution’”. She furthermore commented that “no one can refute that the events themselves did happen, whether you call them a ‘coup’ or a ‘revolution.’” and that “we need to leave that issue” for history to decide.[36] In addition, during another debate on 8 August 2012, the moderator asked Park the minimum hourly rate for a part-time worker as of 2012. Park replied “I think it’s over 5,000 won, isn’t it?,” when the legal minimum wage was 4,580 won. In response, The South Korean Confederation of Trade Unions responded with a statement in which it said, “It is terribly discouraging when a person who wants to become president does not even know the country’s minimum wage, which is a minimal right for survival and the first step toward a welfare state.”[37]

Third parties and independent candidates[edit]


Park Jong-sun (Independent)
A former entrepreneur

Kim So-yeon (Independent)[38]
Elected to the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions

Kang Ji-won (Independent)[39]
Chairman of Korea Manifesto Center

Kim Soon-ja (Independent)[40]
A Cleaning worker, and former proportional representation candidate of New Progressive Party for South Korean legislative election, 2012


Lee Jung-hee (UPP)
former leader of UPP and former assemblywoman[43]

Lee Gun-gae[44]
A former National Assembly Member

Opinion polling[edit]

Poll source Date Sample size Park Geun-hye (8724400493) (cropped).jpg Moon Jae-in 2014.jpg Margin
Park (%)
Moon (%)
JoongAng Ilbo[45] 19–21 July 2012 2,000 56.6 35.0 21.6
OhMyNews/Research View[46] 16–17 July 2012 1,000 50.8 41.0 9.8
Realmeter[47] 29 May – 1 June 2012 3,000 52.5 38.6 13.9
Hankyoreh /Korea Society Opinion Institute[48] 26–27 May 2012 61.0 33.5 27.5
Realmeter[49] 21–25 May 2012 3,750 52.6 37.9 14.7
JoongAng Ilbo[50] 15 May 2012 910 57.6 33.3 24.3
Realmeter[51] 14–18 May 2012 3,750 52.0 37.5 14.5
Realmeter[52] 7–11 May 2012 3,750 51.9 38.2 13.7
Realmeter[53] 7–8 May 2012 1,500 55.7 36.3 19.4
Realmeter[54] 30 April – 4 May 2012 3,000 52.4 38.0 14.4
Realmeter[55] 23–27 April 2012 3,750 50.9 40.3 10.6
Realmeter[56] 6–10 February 2012 3,750 44.3 43.0 1.3
Realmeter[57] 30 January – 3 February 2012 3,750 44.4 44.9 0.5
Donga Ilbo[57] 24 January 2012 46.7 38.4 8.3

Election results[edit]

provinces and cities won by
– Park Geun-hye
– Moon Jae-in
districts won by
– Park Geun-hye
– Moon Jae-in
districts won by
– Park Geun-hye
– Moon Jae-in
e • d Summary of the 19 December 2012 South Korean presidential election results
Candidate Party Votes %
Park Geun-hye Saenuri Party 15,773,128 51.55
Moon Jae-in Democratic United Party 14,692,632 48.02
Kang Ji-won Independent 53,303 0.17
Kim Soon-ja Independent 46,017 0.15
Kim So-yeon Independent 16,687 0.05
Park Jong-sun Independent 12,854 0.04
Invalid/blank votes 126,838
Total 30,721,459 100
Registered voters/turnout 40,507,842 75.84
Source: National Election Commission
regions · provinces · cities Park Geun-hye (8724400493) (cropped).jpg Moon Jae-in 2014.jpg
Park Geun-hye
Moon Jae-in
Votes % Votes %
Sudogwon Seoul 3,024,572 48.18% 3,227,639 51.42%
Incheon 852,600 51.58% 794,213 48.04%
Gyeonggi 3,528,915 50.43% 3,442,084 49.19%
Gangwon 562,876 61.97% 340,870 37.53%
Chungcheong Daejeon 450,576 49.95% 448,310 49.70%
North Chungcheong 518,442 56.22% 398,907 43.26%
South Chungcheong 658,928 56.66% 497,630 43.26%
Sejong 33,587 51.91% 30,787 47.58%
Gwangju 69,574 7.76% 823,737 91.97%
North Jeolla 150,315 13.22% 980,322 86.25%
South Jeolla 116,296 10.00% 1,038,347 89.28%
Busan 1,324,572 59.82% 882,511 39.87%
Ulsan 413,977 59.78% 275,451 39.78%
Daegu 1,267,789 80.14% 309,034 19.53%
North Gyeongsang 1,375,164 80.82% 316,659 18.61%
South Gyeongsang 1,259,174 63.12% 724,896 36.33%
Jeju 166,184 50.46% 161,235 48.95%
Foreign national 67,319 42.55% 89,192 56.38%

Public opinion manipulation controversy[edit]

On December 11, 2012, the Democratic United Party claimed that agents of the Psychological Operations group in the South Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) were influencing public opinion under orders by the NIS, by posting comments on the Internet. They followed these claims by identifying one such agent. In a police search attempt that agent did not emerge from the rented office and claimed that she was not involved in such actions. Right after the last TV debate between candidates Park Geun-Hye and Moon Jae-In police announced that no evidence was found. After Park Geun-Hye was sworn into office, evidence that the agent in question and many others were involved in activities manipulating public opinion in the presidential election. In May 27, 2013 the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency and Seoul Suseo Police Station was found to have delayed delivering evidence, and turned in fabricated laptop hard drive analysis reports.[58][59] The police already had evidence that the agent in question posted political comments, the analysis report was not submitted to the Suseo Police Station and was destroyed.[60][61]

See also[edit]


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  11. ^ Ramstad, Evan (2 May 2012). "As Prez Candidates Emerge, What's Election Really About?". The Wall Street Journal Asia. Retrieved 12 May 2012. [Park] re-crafted [the party] by creating a new name, image and more centrist platform... 
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  30. ^ 2009 survey by Herald Business
  31. ^ Poll: Park Geun-hye still leading race to presidency. The Hankyoreh, 2 April 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
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  37. ^ "Park Geun-hye doesn't know South Korea's minimum wage". The Hankyoreh. 9 August 2012. Retrieved 9 August 2012. 
  38. ^ "김소연·김순자 나란히 '노동자 대통령 후보' 등록 - 프레시안". 25 November 2012. Retrieved 20 December 2012. 
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  41. ^ Chung Sung-yeop (정성엽) (18 April 2012). 안철수 대안론 탄력…야권 '대선 시계' 빨라졌다 [Opposition's last hope, Ahn Cheol-soo? Candidate's running.]. SBS (in Korean). Retrieved 19 April 2012. 
  42. ^ Ahn Chul-soo again hinting at ‘third way’ of doing politics. The Hankyoreh, 29 March 2012. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
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  58. ^ 정희완·이효상,서울경찰청, 국정원 댓글사건 분석 자료 일부만 넘겼다. 사이버분석팀장 삭제한 파일, 나머지 자료 가능성, 경향신문, 2013년 5월 28일
  59. ^ 김정필·정환봉,서울경찰청, ‘국정원 댓글’ 증거보고서 허위로 꾸몄다, 경향신문, 2013년 5월 28일
  60. ^ 이윤상,김용판, 100여페이지 분석자료 폐기…수사방해 분석결과 나오기도 전 보도자료 작성, 뉴스1, 2013년 6월 14일
  61. ^ Police in South Korea Say Spy Service Tried to Influence Election, The New York Times