South Korea

Could Impeachment of South Korean President Improve Relations with North Korea and China?

Leading candidate to replace supports more engagement with North Korea, fewer sanctions


The impeachment of South Korea President Park Geun-hye could lead to a reset of South Korean relations with North Korea and China, as The Washington Post notes. That depends on the results of the election due in 60 days.

Park succeeded Lee Myung-Bak, and both were members of conservative parties who supporter a harder line against North Korea. The rogue's state's latest missile tests coincide with the run-up to Park's impeachment. North Korean state media responded quickly to her legal removal, saying she would be "investigated as a common criminal". Park is indeed already a criminal suspect. But if her corruption makes her a common criminal, the sociopaths in charge in Pyeongyang are uncommon criminals. It's unclear who the intended audience of their gloating over Park's removal is. The domestic audience may wonder whether their criminal leaders, too, could be removed.

The election, scheduled for May, was, prior to Park's removal, set for December. There are as of yet no declared candidates, but at least four parties will hold primary elections over the coming weeks to select their candidates. The center-left Democratic Party has substantial leads in polling so far, and their early frontrunner is Moon Jae-in, who ran against Park in 2012. Moon, a former special forces soldier, served as chief of staff to President Roh Moo-hyun, who while he committed suicide in 2009 over graft allegations remains the most popular of former Korean presidents, considered far less corrupt than others.

Last year, Moon said he would visit Pyeongyang if he were elected president, and has sent mixed signals about the missile defense deployment South Korea and the U.S. agreed to last year, saying there were "both gains and losses" according to the South China Morning Post, and previously called for Park to leave the decision on the U.S. missile defense system to the government scheduled to be elected this year. Moon has backed more dialogue over sanctions against North Korea, saying the hardline stance had been a "complete failure" since it has not deterred North Korea's weapons programs. The North Korean military conducted a series of missile tests in recent weeks, amid the political turmoil in South Korea, the start of the deployment of the missile defense system, and the transition of power in the U.S.