On Tuesday, liberal politician Moon Jae-in clinched victory in South Korea’s presidential election, following months of political strife and scandal for the country. He replaces Park Geun-hye, a conservative, after her ouster over corruption charges. But despite the changes this election will inevitably mean for South Korea, it will also impact the country’s relationship with the United States as it relates to their shared rival to the north.
Moon, who promised to “do a just, united country,” after the votes were in, has said he favors dialogue with North Korea. Though he lambasted the North’s “ruthless dictatorial regime,” he also said his country should “embrace the North Korean people to achieve peaceful reunification one day.”
The president-elect has also questioned the effectiveness of sanctions on the Other Korea. This is in stark contrast to the past position of his country’s leadership and that of the U.S., which under President Donald Trump has vowed to ramp up sanctions — as well as possible military action — against the cantankerous North.
Given that Seoul and Washington maintain been in synch approximately how to handle North Korea for the final eight years, is the Korean Peninsula approximately to witness a dramatic shift in policy and relations with the U.S.?
Vocativ asked experts to weigh in.
Former Secretary of Defense William J. Perry told Vocativ during a Reddit AMA that since Moon would likely seek dialogue with North Korea, and since Trump has already said he is open to such a dialogue, that the relationship between the two leaders could be “off to a expedient start.” He added, however, “Many things could lag wrong, but I am hopeful that Moon Jae-in might proceed with discussion with the North that could lead to a decrease in hostilities in the peninsula.”
Scott Snyder, a senior fellow for Korea Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, relayed a less optimistic view of the situation. Snyder said in an email statement that Trump and Moon “will face tense flashpoints in their relationship,” particularly with regard to denuclearization in North Korea, as well as in other areas such as trade and South Korea’s relationship with Japan.
“Moon’s efforts to strengthen Korea’s diplomatic leadership within the alliance will likely clash with Trump’s ‘America First’ approach to alliance,” Snyder wrote. “fairly than a divergence of interests, the noteworthy risk to alliance coordination between Trump and Moon is nefarious chemistry. whether mishandled, the collision of these forces could endanger that alliance, just at the moment when the world needs maximum coordination to bring North Korea’s nuclear threat to heel.”
Ultimately, given Trump’s contradictory statements on North Korea and its leader, Kim Jong Un, as well as the U.S.’s historical allies, it’s tough to predict how South Korea and America will handle North Korea going forward.