Will the election of Moon Jae-in, the first liberal president in South Korea after nine years, change the North-South relationship.
By Asian Review Staff
16 MAY 2017
Moon Jae-in addressing his first press conference on May 10 after taking over as the 19th President of South Korea (Photo by Jeon Han)
In the recently concluded Presidential elections, Moon Jae-in has
secured a comfortable win, successfully maneuvering support in the vacuum left
by the Park administration. The 64-year old politician, a primary opponent of
out-going President Park, Moon Jae-in aims at reviving negotiations between
North Korea and South Korea.
An era of rapprochement with North Korea could be well under its way, as
the liberal positioned Moon has earlier opted for establishing talking terms
with the North. Taking ample scope of the present conditions, in the face of
Park going for trails and the centrist position of his arch rival Ahn
Cheol-soo, Moon tapped effectively into the populous sentiments, opening up
with double-digit leads over Ahn. In a illustrious victory, Moon secured 41.4%
of the vote, according to an exit poll cited by Yonhap news agency, that
swiftly placed him ahead of his nearest rivals.
As maintained by Moon’s foreign policy adviser, initiating working level
‘talks about talks’ with the North Korea is an emerging possibility under the
new administration. However, he refuted, alike Trump, chances of holding a
summit with the Kim regime, unless they abandon completely their nuclear
arsenals. In a pragmatic stance, Moon has supported the reopening of the
Kaesong industrial complex, a joint North-South project which been sealed
temporarily since early 2016.
In his election campaign, Moon wooing the voters promised to innovate
upon South Korea’s powerful Chaebols - family-owned conglomerates, along with
taking additional measures to tackle rising inequality in the domestic realm.
In the 2012 elections, Park has narrowly defeated Moon to become South Korea’s
first female president. As Moon commits to deescalate rising tensions in the
Korean Peninsular, he has also made bold pronouncements of not tolerating
advances in Pyongyang’s nuclear programme, that casts worrisome shadows on
In a similar vein, Moon is proactive to join hands with Trump, both the
leaders being ‘on the same page’. South Koreans are much more concerned of
Trump than their neighboring Kim regime. It is of highest prerogative for the
forthcoming administration to take requisite steps to deal adeptly with
Washington. In equal measures, Moon will also make attempts to repair its ties
with China, that has staunchly opposed US missile defense
system deployment in South Korea -- Thaad.
Moon faces several challenges, taking into consideration which, he will
have to appoint a prime minister, who will be subject to parliamentary
approval. With a strong reliance upon the conciliatory approach towards dealing
with North Korea, as propounded by the Nobel peace prize winner Kim Dae Jung,
the new president is slated to re-direct South Korea’s trajectory in foreign
policy realm significantly. Thus, Moon comes with a new approach to both
domestic and foreign policy of South Korea, in the current regional scenario
punctuated with serious security and geo-political concerns.
The views expressed here are those of the author alone and not the Asia Council.