During the several years Ms. Park Geun-hye has been the President of South Korea, the United States and South Korea were very close allies and trading partners. The two countries shared a lot of views on where the region is right now, and where it is heading, along with trying to control the bother that is North Korea. Now, all of the diplomatic and economic progress that The United States and South Korea have created over the years may soon come to a screeching halt.
As of latter part of 2016, Ms. Park has been reduced to nothing but a sideline position since the National Assembly of South Korea voted to impeach her on accusations of corruption. The news of an impeachment rocked the country of South Korea and kicked off anti- conservative movements. As a result, the meteoric rise of the main opposition party, the Democratic party, is being led by presidential candidate Moon Jae-In. Mr. Moon has been incredibly vociferous about Ms. Park’s way of dealing with North Korea. As opposed to using pressure and coercion to force North Korea to give up its quest to obtain nuclear weapons, Mr. Moon is calling for a more flexible approach with their neighbor to the north. He, if elected president, is wishing to have more dialogue with North Korea which has been not been the case for many decades. He has said that he will meet with the North Korean president Kim Jong Un only if the topic of nuclear missiles was on the agenda. He also would support a deal that would freeze North Korean capabilities; as dismantling their nuclear program is the ultimate goal.
Even the possibility of these talks with the leader of North Korea has already placed the United States on edge. Mr. Moon also has been very critical of the military ties his country has with the U.S. He wants to put a hold on the THAAD (Thermal High Altitude Arial Defense) missile defense shield which completely threatens the military power the United States has within that region. While Mr. Moon has been very clear of the fact that he wants to continue to have economic and diplomatic cooperation with the United States, he also wants to have a more balanced approach with China.
Newly appointed Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has already been sent out to South Korea in order to reaffirm the ties the two countries have with one another. The current acting president in place of Ms. Park is Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn. Conservatives have suggested, and hoped, that Mr. Hwang would officially run as their conservative candidate but Mr. Hwang has
stated multiple times that he has no intention at all to run. The opposing presidential candidate to Mr. Moon was Mr. Ban. A conservative much like Ms. Park, Mr. Ban is a former United Nations secretary general for the last ten years and is widely popular within South Korea.
Back in December of last year it was widely expected that Mr. Ban would easily beat Mr. Moon in the upcoming presidential election. Now, that is no longer the case. Mr. Ban’s approval ratings have plummeted as he has been the subject of a plethora of negative news with regards to his policy initiatives and also a scandal pertinent to his relatives. The scandal is comprised of Mr. Ban’s relatives also being involved in a corruption case. With the South Korean people irate over scandal after scandal, they look towards the democratic party for relief. These allegations have forced Mr. Ban to declare and end to his run for presidency. With his two main competitors now out of sight and out of mind, Mr. Moon now has his eyes set on the presidency. No one is quite sure how the presidential election will turn out in South Korea. One common theme is certain: there has been a significant rise in leaders and presidential candidates alike who are wanting to “shake up things” both domestically and globally. If elected, Mr. Moon could potentially change a myriad of policies domestically, within the Asian region, and even internationally that could have significant ramifications moving forward.
The rise in both isolationism, or protectionism as President Trump calls it, mixed with forming relations with countries that have long been enemies could spell out danger for neighbors close by. While the presidential front-runner has stated he does not want to sever ties with the United States, it still must be quite worrying for the U.S. that Mr. Moon is so willing to change the way he wants his country to interact with other foreign leaders. Presidential elections are set to be held later this year in December.