The Moon Era
In my previous article titled ‘South Korea’s first impeachment and its implications’, I talked about Park, who not only was South Korea's first woman president but was also the first to be impeached.
The country has been moving swiftly since the impeachment, starting with the presidential election in on 8th May 2017, in which Moon Jae-in was elected as South Korea's 19th president. Moon has now been in office for more 100 days; and in this article, I would like to touch upon his approach and progress on foreign affairs.
President Moon Jae-in (Source: TIME)
1. Relations with US, China, Japan and Russia
To start off with, President Moon emphasised the importance of positive relations with US, China, Japan, and Russia, to tackle the North Korean nuclear crisis. During his phone calls with President Trump, the two leaders agreed to keep the peace in the Korean peninsula and to negotiate nuclear disarmament with North Korea. It is also important for the the US and North Korea to enter negotiations with China, who have a long standing economic, historical and political relationship with North Korea. China is its largest trading partner, and provides the country with 80% of its oil according to the BBC.
President Moon opposed the placement of TTHAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) during his presidential campaign, which main purpose is to target North Korean missiles. However, the instalment of TTHAD has been a controversial one, as it can also detect China’s military weapons. Although President Moon’s priority is to arrange for more peace talks with North Korea, following the increasing number of missile launches in July, Moon also ordered the U.S. to build up its domestic defense systems and temporarily set up a full THAAD system.
3. S. Korea – USA Free Trade Agreement (KORUSFTA)
In 2012, the Free Trade Agreement between South Korea and the USA entered into force. According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, US goods and services trade with South Korea totaled an estimated $144.6 billion, making it the 7th largest goods export market in 2016. However, in June, when President Moon visited the USA to meet President Trump, Trump strongly hinted at renegotiations of KORUSFTA in prefatory remarks before the summit according to the hankyoreh. Trump described the agreement as a ‘rough deal’, and Moon replied that he is willing to enter negotiations with Trump to make the deal fair for both countries.
Moon Jae-in managed to get 83.9% of the country's support on the 100th day of his presidency, one of the highest national support percentages measured. With this mandate, it is a matter of putting his commitments into action.