Opposition candidate Yoon Suk-yeol was elected the next president in a close race. The People Power Party candidate beat Lee Jae-myung of the Democratic Party of Korea by about 247,000 votes, the slimmest margin since the Constitution was amended to hold direct presidential elections in 1987.
The election results show how bitterly divided politics are here. This was foreseen to some extent.
Campaigns were extremely negative. Calling this a contest between the two “all-time most unlikable” candidates did not sound strange. Their campaign offices barraged one another with rough words. Even the candidates’ wives were drawn into the mudslinging. Corruption allegations were leveled ceaselessly. Hatred and revulsion of the opponents escalated and people were deeply split.
The first of multiple challenges facing Yoon is to heal the divide and integrate the nation. As shown in the election results, regionalism largely remains unchanged and conflicts were revealed between generations, between social classes and between male and female voters.
The Moon Jae-in regime incessantly split public opinion with an obsolete ideology that went against the principles of liberal democracy and the free market. Rebuilding principles must be the guiding light to unite the people.
The new government must eliminate dogmatism from state affairs. The income-led growth policy that caused many side effects must be scrapped. It is normal that growth leads income, not vice versa. And yet it was enforced despite experts’ criticisms.
It must not waste any more taxes to create part-time jobs in the public sector. Growth and employment should be driven by the private sector. The government must minimize its intervention in the market and revitalize its mechanism.
A tax bomb is not the way to go to curb real estate prices. The Yoon government should convince people that the houses they want will be supplied sufficiently where they want.
It must not avoid unpopular but unavoidable reforms such as a pension overhaul. It is better to start such reforms early in the presidency.
It is urgent to correct policies excessively lopsided in favor of labor. Reasonable labor activities should be respected, but violence must not be tolerated.
The new government should also reestablish the rule of law, which was broken due to hypocritical double standards applied by the Moon regime to its advantage.
The nuclear phase-out policy that saw Korea’s nuclear industry whither must be scrapped immediately.
Yoon will not have to carry out all of his campaign pledges. They must be reexamined carefully before being implemented. If a policy like the nuclear phase-out is pushed stubbornly, it will cause damage to the national economy that will be hard to recover from.
One of the most important presidential duties is to protect the lives and property of the people. The shaky US alliance should be strengthened. The suspended joint military drills with the ally should resume.
A submissive attitude toward North Korea is of no help in deterring its threat. North Korea keeps upgrading its nuclear and missile capabilities.
The world is sinking into an era of confrontation after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Yoon government should elaborate on a new diplomatic and security strategy considering the changing international order. Korea will straggle if it keeps crying for peace or stands on the wrong side.
An opposition party candidate was elected the next president, but the National Assembly will still be dominated by the opposition Democratic Party, at least until the next general election.
Yoon must not follow the steps of his predecessor who only pretended to listen or ignored the opposition party outright. If he listens sincerely and conducts state affairs fairly, he will make it hard for the Democratic Party to oppose him without justification.
From now on, Yoon ought to show a leadership of integration to unite people and move the nation forward.
By Korea Herald (email@example.com