South Korea’s president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol was chosen to lead South Korea on Thursday as Democratic Party’s Lee Jae-myung conceded defeat. Yoon Suk-yeol, a former prosecutor and according to Korean news agencies, an inexperienced politician begins his administration at a time when South Korea faces different internal as well as external challenges.
At home, Yoon has to bring up plans to tackle issues related to affordable housing and fight economic inequality at a time when markets and international trade continue to reel from the effects of the war in Ukraine. He also has to tackle gender inequality - an issue where his electoral campaigns indicated that he may have to struggle given his comments on feminism and institutionalised sexism in Korea.
These challenges will remain but foreign policy of Seoul is one of the main aspects where Yoon will have to focus on as neighbour North Korea continues its missile tests. The missile tests ordered by the Kim Jong-un regime came at a time when Seoul was headed for the elections. While his predecessor, Moon Jae-in sought a rapprochement with their neighbour, Yoon, according to a report by Washington Post, wants greater cooperation with the United States over China and North Korea.
Yoon would also have to look at the Ukraine situation before picking sides. The situation in Ukraine where the US is accused by some experts of leading Ukraine into a crisis will also serve as a cautionary tale for the inexperienced politician who is now South Korea’s head of state. It’s exit from Afghanistan along with the Ukraine issue shows that the US may not have much of a say in Asian affairs.
Yoon, however, has expressed his inclination to work closely with Quad. Quad, which includes Australia and India may not address security concerns of South Korea directly but Australia and India, due to their recent clashes with Chinese Communist Party over trade issues and border disputes respectively, will find more common ground with South Korea than the US, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.
Japan poses another question due to South Korea’s colonial past. Yoon wants to work with Tokyo to challenge Beijing and Pyongyang but the contentious issues of using wartime forced laborers and sexual slavery victims and seeking compensation from Japan has fractured ties between both nations.
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