In search of a balance between Russia, China and US: Plans of elected president of South Korea

In search of a balance between Russia, China and US: Plans of elected president of South Korea

Stanislav Varivoda

The victory of the candidate from the conservative party “Civil Force” Yoon Seok-yeol in the presidential elections held in South Korea on March 9 as a whole did not come as a big surprise to observers. Weekly polls in the country showed him slightly ahead of his main competitor from the ruling Toburo Democratic Party, Lee Jae-myung. And when the third most popular candidate from the People’s Party, Ahn Chul-soo, announced his withdrawal from the presidential race a few days before the vote and called on his supporters to support Yoon, the result was already a foregone conclusion. As a result, Yoon Suk Yeol received 48.56% of the votes, and Lee Jae Myung – 47.83%. The victory from the latter, according to many experts, “stole” Sim Sang Zhong from the left-wing “Justice Party”, which received 2.5% of the vote.
On the line
Even though Yoon Seok Yeol’s inauguration will not take place until May, he has already developed a storm of activity. On March 10, he phoned US President Joe Biden. According to the White House press service, the interlocutors “confirm-ed the strength of the bilateral military-political allia-nce” and agreed to “maintain close coordination in responding to threats related to the DPRK’s nuclear and missile programs.”
Yoon Suk Yeol also spoke with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, confirming his readiness to work together to improve bilateral relations, which had fallen into complete decline during Moon Jae In’s presidency. The parties also stated the need to further strengthen the Japan-US-South Korea triangle.
The president-elect also met with Chinese Ambassador to South Korea Xing Haiming, to whom he announced his intention to develop relations with Seoul’s largest trading partner. “I am confident that South Korean-Chinese relations will continue to develop,” Yoon Seok Yeol emphasized, recalling that 2022 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
It is noteworthy that during the election campaign, Yoon Seok-yeol repeatedly made sharp attacks towards China, promising to strengthen the South Korean-American military-political alliance and reconsider ties with China. In particular, he argued that “most South Koreans, especially young people, do not like China” and “the Chinese really dislike” Koreans. He also called for the deployment of additional US THAAD missile defense systems (ABM) in the Republic of Korea.
Contradictory statements
In general, on the eve of the elections, Yun Seok Ye-ol, who has worked all his life in the prosecutor’s off-ice and has never been inv-olved in politics, made ma-ny contradictory statements that are either completely out of touch with reality and impossible to implement, or, if they are put into practice, can create a lot of problems for South Korea.
The first of these is the promise I have already mentioned to develop and expand the US THAAD missile defense system in the country. Apparently, Yun, in an effort to please his American partners, has already forgotten about the consequences of the deployment of the first complex in 2017. If Russia reacted to this news calmly on the whole, promising only to take appropriate steps of a military-technical nature, then Beijing’s retaliatory measures brought tangible consequences to Seoul. The PRC authorities have banned group trips of tourists to South Korea, as a result of which the flow of Chinese visiting the country has fallen to the lowest levels in decades (there has been a reduction in millions of tourists). In China itself, many South Korean companies have been persecuted, starting with Lotte, which provided its own plot of land for the installation of American radars and anti-missiles. Officially, no sanctions were imposed, but, as the media reported, a whole army of inspectors from the fire service, sanitary inspection, labor protection, etc. went to South Korean shops and restaurants, who, of course, revealed a lot of violations incompatible with the functioning of these establishments. A powerful blow overtook the area of cultural content – China stopped buying and showing South Korean TV shows and canceled concerts of K-pop stars. According to various estimates, Seoul’s losses from this step alone amounted to $4 billion. Ordinary citizens of the PRC organized a boycott of South Korean goods. It took South Korea almost three years to more or less normalize relations with Beijing. sanitary inspection, labor protection, etc., which, of course, revealed a lot of violations incompatible with the functioning of these institutions. A powerful blow overtook the area of cultural content – China stopped buying and showing South Korean TV shows and canceled concerts of K-pop stars. According to various estimates, Seoul’s losses from this step alone amounted to $4 billion. Ordinary citizens of the PRC organized a boycott of South Korean goods. It took South Korea almost three years to more or less normalize relations with Beijing. sanitary inspection, labor protection, etc., which, of course, revealed a lot of violations incompatible with the functioning of these institutions. A powerful blow overtook the area of cultural content – China stopped buying and showing South Korean TV shows and canceled concerts of K-pop stars. According to various estimates, Seoul’s losses from this step alone amounted to $4 billion. Ordinary citizens of the PRC organized a boycott of South Korean goods. It took South Korea almost three years to more or less normalize relations with Beijing. according to various estimates, they amounted to $4 billion. Ordinary citizens of the PRC organized a boycott of South Korean goods. It took South Korea almost three years to more or less normalize relations with Beijing. according to various estimates, they amounted to $4 billion. Ordinary citizens of the PRC organized a boycott of South Korean goods. It took South Korea almost three years to more or less normalize relations with Beijing.
The second point of contention is Yun Sok-yeol’s intention to launch a preemptive strike against neighboring North Korea “in the event of a threat to national security”. Needless to say, what consequences such a step could lead to in relation to North Korea, which has an impressive arsenal of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons and their means of delivery, including intercontinental ones.
Among the unrealistic intentions of the ex-Prosecutor General is also the signing of a peace treaty with the DPRK, but only after its complete and verifiable denuclearization. Yun does not plan to lift the existing sanctions against the neighboring country until its complete disarmament. How he got the idea that Pyongyang could agree to such a proposal is hard to say. Even the most optimistic experts unanimously say that the maximum that can be counted on, especially in the current situation, is a freeze by North Korea on further developments in the field of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) while maintaining the entire already created arsenal and delivery vehicles.
It is unlikely that anything good can bring to relations with Pyongyang and Yun’s plans to establish some kind of “Foundation for Human Rights in North Korea.” As expected, this body will have to collect information and investigate relevant violations in the DPRK. It is quite understandable how this will be reacted in the North, where they are very sensitive to any external attempts to raise this topic.
Cooperation with the Russian Federation
However, in the document on the main directions of Yoon Seok-yeol’s foreign policy, distributed among foreign journalists on March 13, there are also positive points, including those relating to Russia. A whole paragraph is devoted to it, and this is a lot, given the generally low level of interest in our country among South Koreans.
The president-elect proposes to “expand horizons for future cooperation between the Republic of Korea and Russia.”
In particular, the document notes that Yoon Seok-yeol would like to “restore bilateral cooperation, breathing new life into it and giving new impetus,” starting with projects on the Korean Peninsula that will be “realistic and beneficial for both countries.”
The president-elect also plans to “increase exchanges among young people, cultural and art workers”, “increase and support new areas of cooperation, such as medicine and tourism.”
Yun intends to “identify mutually beneficial projects for expanding investment and trade”, for which, in his opinion, a “high-level consultative mechanism” should be launched.
In addition, he would like to “restore and intensify cooperation between South Korea and Russia in the field of politics and the exchange of information on the DPRK.”
In my opinion, the plans are wonderful. Moreover, they do not contain a word about the current situation around Ukraine and sanctions against the Russian Federation. On the contrary, one can see the attitude towards the construction of constructive and mutually beneficial relations outside the political conjuncture.
As one of the South Korean experts, who worked closely with Yun Seok Yol’s campaign headquarters, explained to me, the politician is determined to build pragmatic relations with all major regional players. “Although an alliance with the United States is extremely important for South Korea, Yoon Seok-yeol does not intend to be limited to it exclusively. China and Russia are our close neighbors, and the new president intends to find a sustainable balance in relations with them,” he said. The political scientist did not rule out that “depending on the situation,” South Korea might even lift the unilateral sanctions imposed by the current administration on Moscow. “I think this opportunity will open up, since many South Korean companies work with Russia,” he stressed.

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