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SEOUL, South Korea — South Korean voters elected a conservative with no political experience as president in the nation’s closest presidential campaign in history. Yoon Suk Yeol has vowed a firmer stance against North Korea and a tighter relationship with the United States.
By a margin of less than one percentage point, Yoon, 61, of the conservative People Power Party, defeated liberal governing party candidate Lee Jae-Myung. Since democratic elections were reinstated in 1987, following decades of military control, this was the country’s sixth presidential election. The voter participation was 77 percent, the same as in the last election five years earlier.
The president-commitment elect’s to be strong on North Korea might signal a significant shift away from the previous Liberal government policy in the region. “I will respond to North Korea’s unlawful and outrageous measures with a principled and forceful reaction, but I will always leave the door open to inter-Korean dialogue,”
President-elect Yoon said Thursday during his first news conference as president-elect.
On the other hand, Yoon has a lot of responsibilities at home. Even though the Democratic Party possesses a majority in parliament, public opinion remains sharply split. In addition to highlighting long-standing ideological and geographic conflicts, the election revealed differing viewpoints across different generations and genders.
Since an unsuccessful meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then-President Donald Trump in Hanoi in 2019, discussions between the two leaders have stopped. Outgoing President Moon Jae-in attended three summits with Kim. Yoon has said that if a nuclear assault by North Korea were near, South Korea would be forced to undertake a preemptive strike on the country.
To persuade North Korea to return to the negotiation table, the Moon administration asked for a proclamation declaring the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War, signed in 1953. On the other hand, Yoon has made it plain that Pyongyang must make meaningful steps toward disarmament before being granted any security assurances or getting any economic assistance.
The incoming government “would attempt to boost deterrence and tight cooperation via the US-ROK alliance,” according to Chung Kuyoun, a political scientist at Kangwon National University. [South Korea’s official name is the Republic of Korea, abbreviated as ROK.] “As a result, the dynamics on the Korean Peninsula have shifted dramatically.”
According to the United Nations, North Korea has launched nine missile launches this year. A study released on Monday by the United States’ Directorate of National Intelligence said that Pyongyang might be prepared to restart nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests for the first time since 2017.