On May 10, 2017, the Republic of Korea elected its 12th President: Jae-in Moon. Moon is elected after his predecessor Park Geun-hye’s impeachment. Moon was the chief of staff to the Republic’s 9th President, Roh Moo-hyun, from 2003 to 2008, and also was a member of the 19th National Assembly (2012-2016). Moon had previously contested for the presidency in 2012, but he lost to Park Geun-hye by a narrow margin.
Park was removed from office on March 10, when judges unanimously voted for the parliament’s decision to impeach her over a corruption scandal. Park was allegedly leaking classified information to a close friend, Choi Soon-sil, to help generate a personal profit. This allegation generated momentum as protesters swarmed the streets of Seoul, demanding Park to step down. Despite Park’s public apology, the people of South Korea were thoroughly enraged by her corruption.
The country’s newly elected President vowed to be more assertive about North Korea’s nuclear missile program. However, unlike Park, who stressed on preventative measures, Moon made it clear that he was willing to negotiate with North Korean representatives through “dialogue”. Furthermore, Moon indicated that if the circumstances are appropriate, he would be willing to meet with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un.
On the other hand, North Korea fired a missile on the morning of May 14. The test object flew 700 miles and landed into the Sea of Japan. Moon said in the presidential office that he strongly condemns this action because it is a “clear violation” to the U.N Security Council Resolutions. While Moon still believes that dialogue can be used to negotiate with Kim Jong-un, it’s less likely that it will happen in the near future.
Other than his policies on North Korea, Moon reaffirms his pledge to strengthen the alliance with the United States. However, he also hint a desire to restore friendly relations with the Republic’s largest trading partner, China. His attempt to seek a diplomatic balance between Washington and Beijing seems rather overreaching because the deployment of American missile defense system (THAAD) caused a wave of anti-Korean movement within China.