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South Korea’s 20th Presidential Election: The Future of the Nation (3/14)

February 25, 2022

The Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies’ Center for Korea Studies hosted a discussion covering South Korea’s 20th presidential election on Monday, March 14, from 3:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. PT.

After a hotly contested election, opposition candidate, Yoon Suk-yeol, won the presidency over the governing party’s candidate, Lee Jae-myung. The election, burdened by tense partisan division, returns the conservatives to power after 5 years of Moon Jae-in’s Democratic Party leadership. The Center for Korea Studies invited a panel of experts to analyze the election, its results, and the future of South Korea.

Topics of discussion included:

  • The main features of the election: What were the major issues areas of the election? Which factors contributed to the defeat/victory for each candidate? How did the 2022 election compare to previous presidential elections?
  • The impact on Korea politics: What do the results of this election mean for Korea’s two major parties? Do the inter-party moves within the 2022 election present a change in Korea’s political process?
  • As the 2022 election represents the closest presidential election in the history of Korean democracy, how can we understand Korean society through the electoral process and these results? What are the sources of division within Korean society exemplified by the election?
  • South Korea is a key player in the geopolitics of East Asia, thus what are the international implications of the election with regards to the U.S., inter-Korean, Japanese, and Chinese relations?


View the Recording of the Forum Here



Uk Heo is University Distinguished Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He is the current Editor-in-Chief of Asian Survey. He received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. His research interests include Korean politics, international relations, and comparative politics. He is the author and coauthor of five books and more than 60 journal articles. His most recent book coauthored with Terence Roehrig is the Evolution of the South Korea-United States Alliance published by Cambridge University Press in 2018. His articles have appeared in top journals such as Journal of Politics, Political Research Quarterly, British Journal of Political Science, International Studies Quarterly, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Comparative Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Peace Research, Asian Survey, and others.

Scott Snyder is senior fellow for Korea studies and director of the program on U.S.-Korea policy at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). His program examines South Korea’s efforts to contribute on the international stage; its potential influence and contributions as a middle power in East Asia; and the peninsular, regional, and global implications of North Korean instability. Mr. Snyder is the author of South Korea at the Crossroads: Autonomy and Alliance in an Era of Rival Powers (January 2018) and coauthor of The Japan-South Korea Identity Clash: East Asian Security and the United States (May 2015) with Brad Glosserman. He is also the coeditor of North Korea in Transition: Politics, Economy, and Society (October 2012), and the editor of Global Korea: South Korea’s Contributions to International Security (October 2012) and The U.S.-South Korea Alliance: Meeting New Security Challenges (March 2012). Mr. Snyder served as the project director for CFR’s Independent Task Force on policy toward the Korean Peninsula. He currently writes for the blog Asia Unbound.

Seung-jin Jang is Associate Professor of Political Science at Kookmin University. He studied at Seoul National University for his B.A. and M.A. and received a Ph.D. in political science from Columbia University. His research interests lie in political behavior, public opinion and elections, and in other topics such as the politics of race and immigration. Professor Jang serves as the editor-in-chief of the Korean Party Studies Review. Additionally, Professor Jang spent a year with the University of Washington as a Visiting Scholar in 2017.

Robert Pekkanen is Professor at the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies, Adjunct Professor of Political Science, and Adjunct Professor of Sociology at the University of Washington. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Harvard University in 2002. His research interests lie in electoral systems, political parties, interview methods, and nonprofits or civil society. He has published articles in political science journals such as The American Political Science Review, The British Journal of Political Science, and Comparative Political Studies, as well Asian studies journals including The Journal of Asian Studies and The Journal of Japanese Studies. He has published twelve books in English on electoral systems, American nonprofit advocacy, Japanese civil society, and Japanese elections and political parties, and there are translations or Japanese versions of two of his books. Pekkanen has co-edited three books on Japanese elections, most recently Japan Decides 2017 about the October 2017 Japanese general election. Pekkanen’s research has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission, Social Science Research Council, the National Endowment of the Humanities, and the National Science Foundation, among others.


Yong-Chool Ha is Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Social Science at the University of Washington. His primary academic interests have been comparative politics and society with a particular focus on late coming nations (Korea, Japan, Prussia, China and the Soviet Union), Soviet and Russian politics, Russian Far East Korean domestic and international politics, inter-Korean Relations and East Asian regional politics and international theories in East Asia.