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[US elections and Korea] Seoul braces of US presidential election outcome

People watch the US election results in Washington DC on Wednesday. (AFP-Yonhap)
People watch the US election results in Washington DC on Wednesday. (AFP-Yonhap)

South Korea on Wednesday was bracing for the result of the US presidential election, uncertain about the impact it will have on the country.

On Wednesday, as vote-counting was underway in the US, top South Korean officials voiced the possibility of the US election bringing about changes both long- and short-term for Seoul.

“There is high possibility that the result of US presidential election will be the beginning of a new political situation” on the Korean Peninsula, Minister of Unification Lee In-young said.

While stressing that Seoul has “made all preparations” to move forward with the Korean Peninsula peace process regardless of the outcome, Lee hinted at the possibility of the North taking actions that would change inter-Korean and US-North Korea dynamics.

“There is possibility that the North will change the situation through major political events such as the party (Workers’ Party of Korea) foundation day and US presidential election, and party convention, so (Seoul) has been monitoring such areas and responding.”

Lee went on to say that the North appears less likely to take actions that seriously deteriorate the situation than to seek improvements.

Experts say that Washington’s dealings with Pyongyang will be very different depending on whether US President Donald Trump is reelected or former Vice President Joe Biden takes the top office.

According to professor Kim Hyun-wook from Korea National Diplomatic Academy, Trump could seek to reach a deal with North Korea, while that would be low on Biden’s list of priorities.

“If Biden wins, US-North Korea talks will be difficult for some time,” Kim said, saying that Biden will first seek to address domestic issues.

“(If Trump wins) there could be another summit. The US won’t make a ‘bad deal,’ but (Trump) appears to be very interested in making peace deals, like in the Middle East, so there could be a small deal.”

The Ministry of Economy and Finance, meanwhile, is preparing for economic impact of the US election.

“Possibility of increase in financial and foreign exchange markets’ fluctuations and overseas risks must be dealt with caution in preparation for uncertainties related to the US presidential election being prolonged,” Vice Minister of Economy and Finance Kim Yong-beom said at a meeting of Finance Ministry’s macroeconomics-related departments.

Raising concerns about reports of possible legal disputes and election results being delayed, the vice minister called on the US election task force -- formed last week -- to closely analyze the impact of the election.

US Ambassador to Korea Harry Harris, meanwhile, issued a message of reassurance that either Trump or Biden would seek to strengthen the South Korea-US alliance.

“Whatever the outcome of the election, I’m confident that we’ll have a leader that values the US-ROK alliance, and he’s prepared to work together to maintain its strength into the future,” Harris said in a video clip posted on Twitter, referring to South Korea by the acronym of the official name Republic of Korea.

“The ROK and US are bound together in countless ways, to our militaries and economies, our experiences, our values, including our commitment to democratic principles, and most importantly through our people,” Harris said.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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