Seoul, South Korea. The new President of South Korea has hit the ground running as he prepares to deal with China and North Korean outreach this week.
New Korean President Moon is the former aide of late liberal President Roh Moo-hyun, who sought rapprochement with North Korea, Moon has been critical of the hard-line stances that conservative governments in Seoul maintained against North Korea over the last decade.
He feels the confrontational approach did nothing to prevent North Korea from expanding its arsenal of nuclear weapons and missiles and only reduced Seoul’s voice in international efforts to deal with its northern neighbor.
His calls for sanctions and pressure against Pyongyang are to be balanced with engagement efforts, and Moon says he’s open to the idea of holding talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un over the nuclear issue, which would mark a sharp departure from previous South Korean policy.
President Moon has also shown a desire to challenge the United States, a key ally of South Korea, saying that Seoul should reconsider its deployment of an advanced missile defense system to better cope with North Korean threats, that has totally upset Chinese-North Korean relations.
China, South Korea’s largest trade partner, has raised concerns that the American missile systems powerful radar can be used to peer deep into its territory and monitor its flights,missile launches and telecommunications. Moon must deal with this issue head on, as the loss of Chinese tourist revenue from a current boycott, has truly hurt the Korean economy.
Internally, Moon promises to launch a powerful new anti-corruption body and also curb the excesses of “chaebol,” a privileged group of family-owned conglomerates such as Samsung and Hyundai, which have been criticized for bribing politicians for business favors and unfairly crushing smaller companies in competition.
The scandal involving ex-president Park has also led to the arrest of Lee Jae-yong, the billionaire scion of Samsung, who is suspected of bribing Park and one of her lesbian lovers in an effort to win government support for a 2015 merger between two Samsung affiliates.
Within the domestic economy, Moon has also vowed to raise the minimum wage to 10,000 won $8.80 an hour from the current 6,470 won $5.70 by 2020. Moon calls for stronger measures to prevent companies from discriminating against part-time or contract workers, who are becoming a larger part of the country’s workforce but often have to put up with lower wages and harsher work conditions.
Moon has many challenges, but his biggest challenge is outside his control; dealing with an aggressive USA that flirts with starting a war that could kill every last person in Moon’s nation in seconds. Korean voters can only hope Moon is on good terms with a higher power to deal with that level of challenge, to himself and mankind.