The success of the newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in will depend on whether he can unite a divided society. He also needs the support of the opposition to implement his ambitious reform agenda.
The presidential election that took place in South Korea on May 9, 2017, produced a clear winner. The Democratic Party candidate, Moon Jae-in, received 41.1 percent of the vote, thus becoming the country’s 19th president. With that, he defeated his most formidable opponent, Hong Jun-pyo, the conservative candidate representing the Liberty Korea Party. At 24.0 percent, Hong received 5.6 million fewer votes. That is the largest difference between the top candidates in a presidential election since South Korea’s democratization in 1987.
In the current issue of the Asia Policy Brief, Hannes B. Mosler, assistant professor at the Institute of Korean Studies and the Graduate School of Asian Studies at Freie Universität Berlin, analyzes the election and the reform agenda of the new president. He argues that Moon Jae-in has the potential to master the many challenges facing South Korea after the impeachment of his predecessor President Park Geun-hye.However, according to Mosler, the success of Moon's presidency will depend on whether he can unite a deeply divided society. Moon needs the support of the opposition to implement his ambitious reform agenda, because one of his biggest political challenges is that, for the time being, he has to rely on a minority government running the risk that the opposition will block key reforms in order to protect its own or others’ interests.
In this regard, the regional elections in June 2018 will, at the latest, will serve as a first barometer showing the degree to which the new administration has been able to implement the desired reforms. In general, however, the prospects for the country under the Moon government are promising compared to what would have been the case had one of the other candidates been elected president, Mosler argues.
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