This week South Korea held an election to replaced the impeached former President Park Geun-hye. Whereas President Park was militantly pro-America, the new President, Moon Jae-in campaigned on a platform of peace and reconciliation.
In no way is President Moon anti-American, but instead he favours an approach whereby South Korea might work more closely with important regional countries in the region like China, in addition to maintaining good relations with Washington.
One of the biggest issues for the new President will be whether to keep the US made THAAD Missile System which is currently operational and stationed in South Korea.
According to Victor Gao from the China National Association of International Studies,
“I think the staunch alliance between the US and the Republic of Korea is expected to stay, but that doesn’t mean the deployment of the THAAD anti-missile system in ROK by the US is the right decision. It completely antagonises China, as well as Russia. And keeping the THAAD system in South Korea will do more harm than any good for the people in South Korea, and eventually, the US is not going to gain anything. Therefore it is time for the new president in Seoul to rethink about how to deal with a THAAD anti-missile system in South Korea … I think the key questions are between North Korea and the United States. Therefore, South Korea is doing the right thing under the leadership of President Moon to position itself in a more conciliatory tone to DPRK through peaceful dialog with each other rather than warmongering”.
Moon is generally seen as a proponent of the so-called ‘Sunshine Policy’ which was generally perused by South Korea between 1998 and 2008.
Moon who won with over 41% of the vote in a field of three major candidates, now has a mandate to shift the bellicose stance of his predecessor and work towards a policy of reconciliation, one which would manifestly benefit the wider region. Just how far he might pursue such policies remains to be seen.