Moon Jae In poised for landslide win in South Korea election: Quick takes from analysts

Presidential candidate Moon Jae In of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea (centre-left) hugs comic actor and his impersonator Kim Min Kyo (centre-right) during an election campaign in Seongnam, South Korea, on April 27, 2017.
Presidential candidate Moon Jae In of the liberal Democratic Party of Korea (centre-left) hugs comic actor and his impersonator Kim Min Kyo (centre-right) during an election campaign in Seongnam, South Korea, on April 27, 2017.PHOTO: EPA

SEOUL - Liberal politician Moon Jae In is posed to be sworn in as South Korea’s president on Wednesday (May 10) after securing what exit polls showed to be a landslide victory in Tuesday’s vote.

Analysts say the new leader will face a tough time trying to meet the vastly diverse demands from voters as well as other players. 

Among other things, he will have to meet the high levels of voter expectations and overcome deep mistrust of voters shaken by a massive corruption scandal that led to his predecessor Park Geun Hye’s downfall. 

Revitalising the sluggish economy and creating jobs will be a priority.

He will also need to address security concerns due to growing missile threats from North Korea, while trying to improve inter-Korea relations as promised. 

Mr Moon will also have to cope with pressure from the US, which wants to renegotiate a free trade deal and defence burden sharing, as well as from China, whose economic retaliation over the deployment of a US missile shield in South Korea has hurt the South's economy.

Here are quick takes from analysts on the election outcome and the challenges of the new leader:

Why Moon won

“The main reason (for Moon’s victory) was the strong public desire for government change... Plus, Moon had prepared for this for the past five years. He had that advantage.”
- Myongji University’s politics professor Kim Hyung Joon told Yonhap news agency

“Moon ran a very classic campaign. His popularity started from Park’s scandal, but he was able to keep it up over a five-month period. He ran a very well-coordinated campaign. And he did not make too many mistakes.”
- Dr James Kim, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul

Challenges ahead

“The new president will be in a very hard-pressed position in order to satisfy very diverse demands. This is not a typical presidential election... It is an election for liberals to lose and a tough one to win for the conservatives.”
- Research fellow Bong Young Shik, Yonsei University’s Institute for North Korean studies, in comments to Arirang News

Dealing with Trump

“It would be in Mr Moon’s favour to 'get along, at least on the surface', with Trump. At the same time, Korea must mend fences with Japan and China (and build) stable relationships as defence against unpredictable moves by the Trump administration.”
- Dr Katharine Moon from Washington-based Brookings Institution 

“If Moon responds to Trump with harsh language, it will drive a wedge between the two countries. I hope he will be cool about it. That’s how you deal with Trump, or it will backfire.”
- Sogang University international relations professor Kim Jae Chun

Inter-Korea ties

“He might want to reopen Kaesong or Mount Kumgang tours, but to do that, he needs to convince the international community to lift sanctions. It’s not clear how he can justify allowing cash transfer to North Korea without violating sanctions.”
- Dr James Kim, research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul

Relations with Japan 

“As a seasoned politician, he fully understands that Japan is a neighbour he should work with, but he won’t be soft on the comfort women issue.”
- Sejong Institute analyst Lee Seong Hyon

 

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