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Asia Minute

Asia Minute: South Korean President Coming to Washington

Republic of Korea

Later this month, the president of South Korea will be traveling to Washington to meet with President Biden. The White House visit follows renewed attention on North Korean policy—and a series of domestic issues in South Korea.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in faces a tough political situation at home.

He’s in the last year of his term, his approval ratings have plunged, and he’s facing pushback on everything from his housing policies to his handling of the latter stages of the pandemic.

South Korea was an early leader on testing and contact tracing, and even sent personal protective equipment to the United States.

More recently its response has slowed, fewer than 5% of its residents are vaccinated.

Vaccine supply remains an issue, and a likely topic of conversation in Washington.

The Foreign Minister recently told reporters, “We’re hoping that the United States will help us out with the challenges we are facing with the vaccines, based on the solidarity we demonstrated last year.”

But at the center of the Moon administration’s policy goals has been engaging with North Korea and making progress on getting Pyongyang to denuclearize.

North Korea’s nuclear program got a disapproving mention in President Biden’s address to a joint session of Congress last week—and by Friday the White House press secretary said the administration had completed a “thorough, rigorous and inclusive” policy review of North Korea.

Expect more details with the approach of President Moon’s visit, two weeks from Friday.

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