South Korea last week elected a former prosecutor who will likely push the country closer to Washington but anger China in the process.
Political observers said the election was “not an election for the future but an election looking back,” according to The New York Times.
“By electing Yoon people wanted to punish Moon’s government they deemed incompetent and hypocritical and to demand a fairer society,” Prof. Ahn Byong-jin, a political scientist at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, told the paper.
Moon Jae-in served one five-year term based on the hope that he could lead the country beyond the scandals of Park Geun-Hye. She was pardoned by Moon after being sentenced to a prison term for bribery and other crimes.
Park is a conservative and Moon is a liberal. His decision to pardon her in December was seen as an attempt to bolster his own chances at re-election by splitting the opposition. The Associated Press reported that Park has insisted that she is a victim of political revenge.
South Korea Moves Closer to U.S.?
Yoon is seen as a conservative who will likely align closer to the U.S. and is expected to take on a more hawkish position against North Korea. The U.S. keeps about 30,000 troops in South Korea since the Korean War ended in an armistice. The troops have been stationed there ever since Seoul and Washington signed a treaty of mutual defense.
Reuters reported that South Korea is the third-largest American military presence outside the U.S. behind Japan and Germany.
The report, citing South Korea’s Defense White Paper that was issued in December, said U.S. Forces Korea maintains about 90 combat planes, 40 attack helicopters, 50 tanks, and about 60 Patriot missile launchers in the country.
Yoon’s election may be welcome news for Washington since there has been concern that Seoul has not stood up to China when it comes to Taiwan aggression. (See: “SOUTH KOREA’S BOTTOM LINE: THEY WON’T SUPPORT TAIWAN OR U.S. AGAINST CHINA.”)
We reported that China is a major trade partner with Seoul. One observer described South Korea as the “shy girl at the prom” when it comes to China, which is “sitting by the punch bowl.”
Moon also tried a diplomatic approach to North Korea, while Yoon has already called for new military drills with the U.S.
Yoon has also expressed interest in joining The Quad, the military alliance formed by the U.S., Australia, and Japan. Moon “maintained South Korea’s strong military, but otherwise sought to focus on economic development rather than play an active part in global or even regional affairs,” Henry Olsen, a columnist at The Washington Post, wrote.
“Yoon sees the world completely differently. He wants to strengthen the alliance with the United States and plans to acquire increased missile and air defense capability, including allowing the United States to station more Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile units in South Korea. China vociferously protested the initial THAAD deployment because it believes it could be used to combat its own nuclear capabilities,” he wrote.
Yoon, a member of the right-wing People Power Party, took a tough stance toward China during the campaign, which Politico pointed out “could reshape the balance of power in East Asia.”
He won by fewer than 300,000 votes. Some of the other key issues of the campaign were public inequality, unemployment, and #MeToo scandals within Moon’s own government.
The Times reported that the country is also struggling on the domestic front, from skyrocketing home prices, economic uncertainty, and a falling birth rate.
“We are the betrayed generation,” Kim Go-eum, 31, who works at a convenience store chain, told the paper. “We have been taught that if we studied and worked hard, we would have a decent job and economically stable life. None of that has come true.”
TRENDPOST: Washington is no doubt celebrating Yoon’s election, but – as we see in Ukraine, there are times when expanding alliances can lead to war. China has recently started speaking out against the growing push by the West to form an Indo-Pacific NATO. (See: “U.S. LAUNCHES COLD WAR 2.0: CHINA LAMBASTS ‘COLD-WAR MENTALITY.’”)
“China sees itself surrounded by hostile forces (save for Russia and the DPRK), so they view this as a literal existential threat whereas the U.S. is protected by the Pacific and the Atlantic,” Nydia Ngiow, managing director at BowerGroupAsia Singapore, said. “North Korea is China’s only ally, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has strained its relationship with China. Its strong relationships within the region with Pakistan, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos also lack the depth compared to the U.S. and its allies. The Belt and Road initiative has also not been as successful as China would like.”
Wang Yi, China’s foreign minister, said Monday that the U.S.’s “real goal” is to form a NATO-type alliance in the Indo-Pacific, which he said runs “counter to the common aspiration of the region for peace, development, cooperation, and win-win outcomes.”
“They are doomed to fail,” he said.
Wang reiterated that Beijing is not pleased with Washington’s recent overtures to Taiwan.
“This would not only push Taiwan into a precarious situation but will also bring unbearable consequences for the U.S. side,” Wang said. He said, “Taiwan will eventually return to the embrace of the motherland.”
TRENDPOST: Under the Trump administration, war “games” by the United States and South Korea near North Korea were suspended… and so too was the war talk.
Rather than making peace and friendship—as with the U.S. led “hate and fear Russia” Cold War that has been raging almost non-stop since the end of World War II—the “hate and fear North Korea” campaigns have been going on since the end of the Korean War in 1953.
None of the sanctions and other restrictions imposed by the United States on these and other nations, such as Cuba and Venezuela, has changed their political directions or derailed their national initiatives.
The only bearers of bad sanction news have been the general public who pay the price while the political leaders continue to live in the higher life styles they have been accustomed to.