For years America has been helping keep South Korea safe. By keeping a large presence in the country, North Korea has reasons not to try an invasion, and by keeping them from doing so the dialog lines have remained open to some degree. While President Trump was in office, he did his best to use his business negotiation tactics to make progress on getting the two nations to reunite.
Now with President Biden in office, the SK people have something to fear. They see how little he has done to protect Ukraine, and they see how emboldened North Korea has become in response. Now they have elected a right-side President Yoon Suk-yeol. This incoming conservative is new to politics, and only managed to win by about 250k votes, so the SK people may not be entirely sold on his ideas.
However, this stance of not allowing the North Korean aggression to stand is something that has been missing from SK politics. While on the campaign trail he vowed “If you give me a chance, I will teach him some manners.” This tough new stance is something SK has been lacking with the string of moderate leadership. These leaders hide behind the defensive might of the US, and our presence in the area to keep NK away.
President Yoon on the other hand seems ready to bring the fight to NK if needed, and not hide behind the US without having some skin in the game. He wants SK to return to the strong, storied, and proud nation it once was. This also gives a slight undertone of possibly getting the province to reunite. While he has yet to specifically say that he has committed to protecting the country while keeping the door open to dialog with the North.
Making these kinds of promises is often a horrific mistake, but Yoon seems sincere in his resolve. His desire to protest SK from aggression, and not be pushed around is something the country has been lacking for some time. This change of pace will certainly shake things up a bit, and perhaps it is also the change that will get Kim Jung Un to come to the table and talk about making a change. A talk that could allow NK to save face but reunite the province and improve the lives of their people.
Upon news of his election, the White House issued a statement that President Bident had spoken with the newly elected Yoon. There they spoke about the commitment of the US to the defense of SK as well as the threats from NK’s nuclear program. While these words are not unexpected, it will be interesting to see if the two will share honest dialog, or if President Yoon will have enough of the spineless leader in the White House, just like he was sick of the previous moderate leadership in SK.
Given President Biden’s inability to help countries flourish and his commitment to doing as little as possible to help people across the globe, it will be a true miracle if he’s willing to stand behind his words and help SK avoid an attack by NK. His canned tweet leaves a lot to be desired if you are in any sort of political position. “I spoke today with President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol of the Republic of Korea to congratulate him on his election. I look forward to working with him to continue to strengthen the U.S.-ROK Alliance and take on shared global challenges.” This is the same kind of thinly veiled dis-contempt you see when someone is forced to work with another person, they hate in a work situation. Had that been President Trump, NK would most likely be at the table and ready to talk already.