While there is a lot of hand-wringing over the disaster of liberal democracy and the upward thrust of corrosive nationalism in the West, South Korea supplied a welcome reminder that people’s power continues to be alive. In a snap election Tuesday, South Korean democracy voters elected Moon Jae-in as the united states’ next president. Moon, a liberal baby-kisser, took office Wednesday, marking the primary time in a decade that Seoul’s Blue House has been occupied with the aid of a progressive president. However, his views on engagement with North Korea may also place his authorities unexpectedly at odds with the Trump management.
But it truly is now not what is so placing about Moon’s victory. His upward thrust to power got here amid seven months of political turbulence. First, South Korean media commenced reporting and investigating allegations of corruption and bribery surrounding then-President Park Geun-Hye. Mass protests and criminal court cases accompanied, in the end, main to Park’s impeachment and elimination from strength in March. Then, the election cycle swung into gear, and Moon, a former human rights attorney, campaigning on an anti-corruption platform, become boosted by users hungry for the alternate.
South Korea elects Moon Jae-in as president Embed Share Play Video1:03 South Korea’s elected candidate of the Democratic Party, Moon Jae-in, as their new president on May 10, finishing months of political turmoil inside the country. (Reuters) The protests against Park tapped into full-size frustration inside us over the pervasive attain of fundamental South Korean conglomerates and their alleged collusion with political elites. Park’s misdeeds reminded some South Koreans “how we haven’t cared enough approximately politics and have not been retaining close sufficient watch on how the authorities are administered,” stated Kim Wan-kyu, a 34-yr-old office employee who spoke to my colleague Anna Fifield whilst demonstrations first commenced in November.
“South Korea nevertheless has many troubles. But its people, buoyed up by a fantastic wave of civic activism, are showing that they aren’t organized to accept the hooked-up manner of doing things,” wrote my colleague Christian Caryl in March, whilst Park become pressured out of office. “They have mounted a superb campaign for trade, and nowadays, that marketing campaign has borne the fruit of the most dramatic sort. Their cousins to the north can make simplest dreams of comparable acts of defiance — which is why their united states remain frozen in time, beholden to a frontrunner whose best plan for the future is tied to the machinery of violence.
The focus now shifts to what Moon’s presidency may look like. Domestically, he has “promised to improve transparency in authorities appointments and make stronger guidelines on the conglomerates that dominate South Korea,” wrote Fifield on Tuesday. “Voters had also been involved in approximately the anemic economy and the widening disparity among wealthy and negative. Moon promised to put together a huge stimulus bundle to create 810,000 public-zone positions and to lessen lengthy running hours.” His birthday celebration does now not keep a majority.
But the more urgent question for observers in Washington is how South Korea’s mindset towards North Korea and the Trump management’s moves towards Pyongyang may additionally shift. Moon belongs to a South Korean political tradition keen for rapprochement, or as a minimum advantageous engagement, with North Korea. That is at odds with the White House’s aggressive ratcheting up of tensions in the wake of North Korea’s state-of-the-art spherical of missile tests.
“Moon has said he isn’t always against sanctions,” explained educational Andrew Yeo in The Post’s Monkey Cage blog. “But by seeking inter-Korea talks, selling an ‘economic network’ and persuading nearby partners to pursue engagement with as opposed to coercion towards North Korea, the brand new South Korean authorities may additionally discover it hard to coordinate its North Korea coverage with Washington.
Moon has also bristled on deploying the U.S.’s sophisticated THAAD missile defense system in South Korea, which Moon claims changed into legal through the preceding government without a proper review and then rapid-tracked earlier than the election. Liberal discontent with THAAD in South Korea turned into deepened via Trump’s own competition that South Korea ought to foot the bill for its deployment.