Park ready for softer line on North Korea

Source:Global Times Published: 2012-12-20 19:05:04

Saenuri (New Frontier) Party candidate Park Geun-hye beat her rival, liberal candidate Moon Jae-in of the Democratic United Party and was elected as the first female president of South Korea on Wednesday with 51.56 percent of the vote.

To some extent, Park's victory can be contributed to North Korea's launch of its long-range rocket on December 12. The North Korean issue has long been a vital factor in South Korea's elections.

The launch made South Koreans rethink the current situation on the Peninsula and they want to see a new government which can change the current hostile relations between the North and the South. North Korea didn't want the Democratic United Party to win because it wouldn't need to dramatically adjust its policies if the Saenuri Party won.

Although many people argue that economic crisis is the most vital task Park faces, security questions are more likely to be immediate challenges for the new president.

Although Park has said: "This is considered a victory for people who want to overcome crisis and revive the economy," the future of South Korea's economy will mainly depend on the overall situation of the global economy. The global economic problems cannot be resolved by South Korea alone, but the tensions on the Peninsula hit close to home.

Park is the daughter of former South Korea dictator Park Chung-hee, who ruled from 1961 to his assassination in 1979. During the campaign, she stated that she would take some practical actions to deal with the relationship with North Korea.

But Park has a relatively deep understanding of the overall situation in Northeast Asia and a sense of balance.

She made many hardline comments after the sinking of the Cheonan and the Yeonpyeong Island bombardment, stating that North Korea's future provocations in areas around the northern border would be responded to strongly. However, at the same time, she also said that if North Korea made any progress in denuclearization, she would take decisive measures in response.

Park will match actions with words, promising that she "will be a national president who keeps pledges." She may make some big moves in the future on issues such as North Korean nuclear weapons.

However, the reason for these moves is to revise the excessive inclination to the US of the Lee Myung-bak administration. During the Lee administration, because of the very close relationship with the US, South Korea's attitude toward North Korea was too hostile and tough. Park will adjust the current inflexible policy and find a balance between the two relationships.

But this doesn't mean the US-South Korean alliance will change in a real sense. Park's adjustment is just because she wants to prevent China from being hostile to South Korea. She may change her words when she mentions the regional affairs and relationships with the US. However, the relationship with the US will remain essentially the same.

South Korean's sense of security is mainly connected with North Korea. If there's any progress in security and defense cooperation between the US and South Korea, or the tension between North and South Korea becomes less serious, South Korean's sense of security will increase. Judging by Park' campaign platform, both of these two possibilities may come true.

Park's policy toward North Korea will be more flexible. She will not dramatically move from the current stance, but she will take a less combative line and prepare to communicate with North Korea.

Park's adjustment may receive an active response from North Korea. In fact, North Korea also wants to improve its relationship with the US and South Korea to stabilize its domestic rule.

The relationship between North and South and the North Korea's policies didn't change much during Lee Myung-bak's government.

North Korea expected that it would have more opportunities when South Korea had a new president. Therefore, if Park can raise a practical and moderate proposal of cooperation, North Korea may positively respond to it.

The article is compiled by Global Times reporter Shu Meng based on an interview with Zheng Jiyong, scholar of the Center for Korean Studies at Fudan University.

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