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“Depending on who is elected in (next) presidential election, (South) Korea’s foreign policy will obviously get different (in consequence),” Go Myong-hyun, a research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said in an interview with Xinhua on Tuesday.Transfer in South Korea of presidential power from the ruling bloc to the opposition is expected to cause a dramatic change in the country’s diplomacy and policy toward the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), experts here said.
Moon Jae-in, former chairman of the biggest opposition Minjoo Party who is now the frontrunner in recent presidential polls, is forecast to consider the re-opening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex if he is elected, the expert on security and diplomacy said.
The inter-Korean factory park in the DPRK’s border town of Kaesong was unilaterally shut down by South Korea in retaliation for Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January and the launch in February of a long-range rocket, which Seoul saw as a disguised test of a long-range missile.
Moon is former chief of staff to late President Roh Moo-hyun who had inherited a “sunshine policy,” or rapprochement approach to its northern neighbor, from his predecessor late President Kim Dae-jung. Both Roh and Kim held summit talks with late DPRK leader Kim Jong Il.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye and his predecessor President Lee Myung-bak adopted a so-called “strategic patience” on the DPRK’s nuclear issue, which had done little to encourage Pyongyang to return to a dialogue table and had used pressures and sanctions alone.
Early presidential race is expected to come as President Park was impeached on Dec. 9 in the parliament with an overwhelming support. The constitutional court has up to 180 days to deliberate, and a presidential election must be held within 60 days if the impeachment is justified.
The transfer of power to the opposition bloc could bring about not a few alterations in the country’s foreign and security policies as ruling and opposition parties approach those issues from different perspectives.
If the ruling bloc wins back the presidency, there would be no big transformation in South Korea’s DPRK policy, said the research fellow who forecast the inter-Korean relations would be a big issue in the upcoming presidential race.
Conservative voters here traditionally favor a hard-line policy toward the DPRK, while liberal voters tend to support the sunshine policy to defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula and increase exchanges and cooperation between the two Koreas.
The opposition bloc, the expert said, has made out its case for the re-examination or the stop of the deployment of a U.S. missile shield in South Korean soil, the signing of the military intelligence pact with Japan and the agreement with Japan on comfort women victims.
He advised the next South Korean administration to consider both positions of China opposing to the THAAD deployment as well as of the United States and Japan which are concerned about the re-examination of their agreements with South Korea.
Under the Park Geun-hye administration, Seoul and Washington announced their plan in July to install one Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery in southeastern South Korea by the end of next year despite strong oppositions from China and Russia.
South Korea signed the accord with Japan on Nov. 23 to exchange military intelligence on the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs despite strong objections here to such deal with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe-led cabinet which has yet to apologize for past brutalities during its 1910-45 colonization of the Korean Peninsula.
Seoul also reached a “final and irreversible” agreement last December with Tokyo on the victims of comfort women, a euphemism for Korean women who were lured or forced into sexual slavery for the Imperial Japan’s military brothels before and during the World War .
The frail comfort women victims and advocate groups have held a rally every Wednesday in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul to protest against the agreement and demand Japan’s sincere apology and its acknowledgement of legal responsibility.