South Korea`s President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap)
North Korean state media on Friday reported on conservative candidate Yoon Suk-yeol’s win as South Korea’s new president, marking the regime’s first coverage of the election result.
In a brief report, the North’s Korean Central News Agency said, “Yoon Suk-yeol, a candidate of the conservative opposition ‘People Power Party,’ won by a narrow margin in the 20th ‘presidential election’ held in South Korea on March 9.” The Rodong Sinmun, which caters to the country’s domestic audience, also carried a similar one-paragraph report on Yoon.
Observers say it is unusual for the regime to report on Yoon’s victory so quickly, especially with his full name in the report, considering he is a conservative candidate. Previous conservative governments have taken a hard-line stance on the North.
When former conservative President Park Geun-hye won the election in 2012, the KCNA reported a day after in a short report, but without mentioning her name. For former President Lee Myung-bak, the North Korean media reported a week later.
When President Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea won in 2017, the Choson Sinbo, a pro-Pyongyang newspaper based in Japan, was quick to report the next day, saying the result showed “people’s power that achieved the administration change.” The KCNA report on Moon’s victory followed a day later.
Yoon is largely expected to take a hard-line stance on Pyongyang, in contrast to the outgoing Moon Jae-in administration’s engagement policy. A day after Yoon won the election, the president-elect said he will “sternly” respond to any illegal or unreasonable behavior by the regime, but insisted he is open to dialogue as well. He also vowed to establish a strong military capacity to deter provocations from the North.