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South Korea's new leader faces pressures on all sides

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Subject

The outlook for South Korea's new administration.

Significance

Moon Jae-in of the liberal Minjoo (Democratic) Party, elected by a landslide on May 9 in the early election called due to Park Geun-hye’s impeachment, took office the next day as South Korea’s 19th President. A busy first week impressed many, not least his firm reaction to the launch on May 14 of what appears to be North Korea's most powerful ballistic missile yet.

Impacts

  • Anger in South Korea over Chinese boycotts dashes any Chinese hopes of luring Seoul closer.
  • Moon is likely to make some gesture of outreach to Pyongyang, despite the North's missile tests.
  • Cooperation with the centrist People's Party will be necessary to pass legislation; Moon's choice of premier may help secure it.
  • Unlike many of Park’s picks, getting parliamentary approval for Moon's choice of prime minister should be unproblematic.
  • On Japan, Moon has made a populist start, but, in time, may take a more long-term view.
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