South Korea’s newly elected liberal president starts duties

SEOUL, May 10:Hours after celebrating his election win with thousands of supporters in wet Seoul streets, new South Korean President Moon Jae-in today was quickly thrown into the job of leading a nation deeply split over its future and faced with growing threats from North Korea and an uneasy alliance with the United States.
Moon, whose victory capped one of the most turbulent political stretches in the nation’s recent history and set up its first liberal rule in a decade, assumed presidential duties after the National Election Commission officially declared him as winner.
He will be formally sworn in at noon, forgoing the usual two-month transition because he was chosen in a special election after the last elected office-holder was removed by a court and jailed on corruption charges.
After taking the oath of office at the National Assembly at noon, he is also expected to nominate a prime minister, the country’s No. 2 job that requires approval from lawmakers, and name his presidential chief of staff during the day.
Taking up his role as the new commander in chief, Moon received a call from Army Gen. Lee Sun-jin, chairman of South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, who briefed him on the military’s preparedness against North Korea.
A short time later, Moon stepped out of his private home and received an emotional send-off from hundreds of residents, who shook his hand, hanged flowers on his neck and asked him to pose with his children. He then left with his wife, Kim Jeong-sook, for a national cemetery in Seoul.
After bowing to honor the former presidents, independence fighters and war heroes at the cemetery, Moon wrote “A country worth being proud off; a strong and reliable president!” in a visitor book. He then visited the offices of opposition parties, seeking support in governing the country split along ideological lines and regional loyalties.
His Democratic Party has only 120 seats in the 300-seat National Assembly, so he may need broader support while pushing his key policies.
“I had a telephone call with Liberty Korea Party candidate Hong Joon-pyo. I again offer him words of comfort,” Moon said during his visit to the conservative party, whose candidate Hong placed second.
“I think I can work well with the Liberty Korea Party on the areas of the United States-South Korea alliance and on national security issues. … I promise to share important information about national security with opposition parties and will ask for cooperation on such issues.”
Chinese leader Xi Jinping congratulated Moon on his election win, according to state media reports that provided no further details.
Relations with China have sunk to one of their lowest points since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. Beijing objects to the US missile-defense system THAAD recently deployed in South Korea because it fears the system’s radar could be used to monitor the Chinese military’s flights and missile launches.
Moon made a campaign vow to reconsider the THAAD deployment. Other foreign policy areas under Moon may depart sharply from recent conservative governments. He favors closer ties with North Korea, saying hard-line approaches failed to prevent the North’s development of nuclear-armed missiles and only reduced South Korea’s voice in international efforts to counter North Korea.
This softer approach might put him at odds with South Korea’s biggest ally, the United States. The Trump administration has swung between threats and praise for North Korea’s leader.
Moon was declared president after the election commission finished counting the votes, saying Moon gathered 41 percent, comfortably edging conservative Hong Joon-pyo and centrist Ahn Cheol-soo, who gathered 24 percent and 21 per cent, respectively. (AGENCIES)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here