Friday, March 31, 2023

Yoon faces tough challenges as South Korea’s new president

Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) — Former top prosecutor Eun Suk Yeol took office as South Korea’s president on Tuesday, facing a difficult mix of foreign policy and domestic challenges, most recently with South Korean leaders taking over as their presidency. Faced at the beginning of the post.

Yoon’s single, five-year term begins at midnight on Monday before being sworn in on Tuesday morning at a formal ceremony in Seoul.

Since winning the election in March, Yoon, a conservative who advocates a more rigid approach towards North Korea, has been denied a honeymoon period. Polls show that less than 60% of respondents expect him to do well in his presidency, an unusually low figure compared to his predecessors, who received around 80%–90% before entering office. Was. According to a Gallup Korea poll released last week, his approval rating as president-elect was 41%, with outgoing moderate President Moon Jae-in rating 45%.

Yoon’s low popularity is partly to blame on the sharp divide between conservatives and liberals, and on controversial policies and cabinet choices. Some experts say that amid challenges such as North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal, an intensifying US-China rivalry and pandemic-ravaged livelihoods, even foreign policy novice Yun has not shown a clear vision of how to save the world’s 10th-largest economy. How to navigate

“Our foreign policy, national security and economy are all in crisis. Yoon should have presented some vision, hope or leadership to show how he can pull the masses together in these difficult times. But I don’t think they have shown such things,” said Professor Chung Jin-young, former dean of the Graduate School of Pan-Pacific International Studies at Kyung Hee University.

With US-led nuclear disarmament talks at a standstill, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un recently threatened to use nuclear weapons against his rivals and is reportedly preparing to conduct his first nuclear test in nearly five years. Huh.

The US-China conflict is creating a distinct security dilemma for South Korea as it struggles to strike a balance between Washington, its main military ally, and Beijing, its biggest trading partner.

During his campaign, Yoon accused Moon of leaning too heavily toward North Korea and China and away from Washington, exploiting ties with Japan, Korea’s former colonial ruler, for domestic political purposes.

He has vowed to abandon Moon’s appeasement policy toward North Korea, strengthen South Korea’s alliance with the United States, and improve relations with Japan. Critics say Yun’s policies will lead to confrontations with North Korea and China, although he is likely to strengthen trilateral South Korea-US-Japan security cooperation.

Professor Chung said South Korea must accept that it cannot force North Korea to reduce or reduce the US-China standoff. He added that South Korea should instead focus on strengthening its defense capability and that the US coalition should “never dare North Korea to think of a nuclear attack on us.” He said that South Korea should also prevent the deterioration of relations with Beijing.

Domestically, some of Yoon’s key policies could face a deadlock in parliament, which remains controlled by liberal lawmakers until a general election in 2024. The Liberals recently flexed their legislative muscles by passing a controversial bill aimed at curtailing the investigative powers of state prosecutors. Critics say the bills are meant to prevent Yoon from investigating possible wrongdoing by the Moon administration.

Shaken by the massive Omicron boom in recent months, Yoon must rebuild South Korea’s pandemic response. The COVID-19 crisis has battered an economy that is already battered by a bleak job market and rising personal debt. Yoon Ko also inherited the failures of Moon’s economic policy, which critics say allowed house prices to skyrocket and widen one of the worst rich-poor gaps between developed countries.

Choi Jin said “the challenges faced by Yoon at the beginning of his presidency are the most difficult and most regressive” among South Korean presidents elected since the late 1980s, the country’s de facto democracy after decades of dictatorship. The period seen as the beginning of. Director of the Seoul-based Institute of Presidential Leadership.

Yoon, 61, has also invited criticism from some of his conservative supporters – over his decision to ditch the mountainous Blue House presidential palace and immediately move his offices to the Defense Ministry complex in central Seoul. Yoon said the move is meant to better communicate with the public, but critics question why they have made it a priority when they have many other urgent issues to deal with.

Some of Yoon’s cabinet choices are embroiled in allegations of moral lapses and misdemeanors. His health minister was accused of using his position as the head of a university hospital to help his children get into medical school. The nominee denied the allegation.

Yoon, a novice in domestic party politics as well as foreign policy, was the prosecutor-general for Moon before he resigned and joined the main conservative opposition party last year after internal feuds with Moon’s political allies. Went.

Choi said that Yoon has not yet established his solid power base within the conservative camp, one of the reasons he faces low approval ratings.

Some experts say that if the two leaders agree on steps to boost South Korea’s national security and economy, US President Joe Biden’s planned visit to Seoul next week may be a way to boost public confidence in his leadership. is a good opportunity.

The prospects for the initial round of Yun’s presidency also hinge on the election of the mayor and governor on June 1. Choi said that if the Liberals win more local government positions while maintaining a majority in parliament, “things will be really difficult for Yoon.”


Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.


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