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Moon Jae-in sworn in as new S. Korean president, makes appointments

Former human rights lawyer Moon Jae In was Wednesday sworn in as South Korea's new president, hours after the country's election commission confirmed his victory in the polls.

It might be North Korea, which sees Moon as an advocate of a softer approach to ridding the North of nuclear weapons.

He won 41.1% of the vote in Tuesday's election, ahead of Hong Joon-Pyo of the Liberty Korea party, on 24%, and centrist Ahn Cheol-Soo on 21.4%.

In one of his first acts as president, Mr Moon spoke by telephone with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Lee Sun-jin.

During his campaign, many conservatives anxious that Moon's election would cause problems with Washington, Seoul's most important ally, because of his engagement policy on North Korea would clash with Trump's push to maximize pressures on the country.

Earlier this month, South Korean officials said the THAAD system was already operating, and experts say it will be extremely hard now for Moon to ask Washington to withdraw it.

Moon, 64, also pledged to sever what he described as the collusive ties between business and government that have plagued many of South Korea's family-run conglomerates, known as chaebol, and vowed to be an incorruptible leader.

Moon will be officially sworn in as South Korea's new president after the election commission finishes the vote count and declares the victor Wednesday morning. And if conditions are met, I will go to Pyongyang.

He will also name officials to the key positions of prime minister, head of the National Intelligence Service, chief of staff, and chief bodyguard, a parliament official said.

However, the new leader in Seoul may have little time to celebrate as he faces a series of major foreign policy messes left over by his impeached predecessor Park Geun-hye, most notably a highly charged situation on the Korean Peninsula.

"We congratulate President-elect Moon Jae-in and join the people of South Korea in celebrating their peaceful, democratic transition of power". His conciliatory attitude to North Korea runs counter to the more robust approach favoured by United States president Donald Trump, who favours increasing pressure on North Korea with tougher sanctions.

Moon advocates dialogue and reconciliation to defuse the situation and eventually lure it to negotiations.

The move raised questions over the ties between Seoul and its security guarantor, Washington, which has 28,500 troops stationed in the South.

Their presence, he told reporters during the campaign, was "important not only to our own security but also to the global strategy of the US". Pyongyang has conducted its fifth nuclear test and a series of missile launches since the start of a year ago, ratcheting up tension on the peninsula.

Washington has said military action is an option, sending fears of conflict spiralling.

Mr. Moon is expected to revive the "Sunshine Policy" of outreach and engagement with the regime of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and has questioned the installation of a US missile defense system aimed at frustrating the North's nuclear and conventional arsenal.

Soon after the swearing in ceremony, Mr. Moon, in a departure from current policy, said he would be willing to visit North Korea in the right circumstances.

At home, Moon will have to deal with slowing growth, soaring unemployment and public frustration over widening inequality in wealth and opportunities.

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