With the dismissal of South Korea’s former president Park Geun-hye from office, a new presidential election is coming up on May 9, and a change of parties is not only expected—it is almost certain. With the liberal Democratic/Minjoo Party replacing the conservative Korean Liberty Party/Saenuri, what kind of changes can the world expect with regard to U.S.-Korean relations and policy towards North Korea?
Throughout the past year, the Minjoo Party criticized Park’s decision to deploy the U.S.-produced Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system. The leading Minjoo Party candidate, Moon Jae-in, served as the chief of staff to the last liberal president, Roh Moo-hyun, who supported policies of engagement with North Korea. So will the next government be more open to diplomacy at this dangerous time on the Korean peninsula?
Lee said that because of the reality on the ground, the next president, whoever it is, will be constrained in his choices. The Minjoo Party will have to accept THAAD, because it is already a done deal. The first components of THAAD arrived at Osan Air Base, outside of Seoul, on March 6, and the system is in the process of being assembled. “By the time the elections are over, this is going to be a done deal, and they will have no choice but to accept it. They’ll just blame it on the Park administration,” Lee said.
As for possibilities of dealing with North Korea,