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Asia Minute: South Korea moves toward a new government as North Korea returns to familiar patterns

South Korea's president-elect Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during a news conference at the National Assembly in Seoul on Thursday, the morning after his victory in the country's presidential election.
Kim Hong-ji
Pool Photo via AP
South Korea's president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a news conference at the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea on Thursday, March 10, 2022.

The top U.S. policy expert on North Korea was in South Korea on Tuesday. The trip follows North Korea’s latest weapons test — and comes at a time of political transition in Seoul.

Three weeks from Tuesday, a new administration will take power in Seoul — following five years of President Moon Jae-in.

Moon was the third South Korean president to meet his North Korean counterpart face to face — meeting with Kim Jong Un three times in 2018 and with Kim and then President Trump at the demilitarized zone in 2019.

Moon’s more conservative successor Yoon Suk-yeol won a tight election and carries a different attitude toward the North.

On Monday, the incoming Foreign Minister said “the Yoon administration will pursue a balanced policy toward North Korea, which will use a pressure and persuasion approach.”

The U.S. special representative for North Korea will be meeting with the transition team of the president-elect during a five-day visit that just got underway.

Ten years ago, Sung Kim was the U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

He’s also served as ambassador to the Philippines and Indonesia. Before joining the foreign service, he worked as a prosecutor — the same career followed by South Korea’s president-elect.

Local media in South Korea are speculating President Biden may stop for meetings in Seoul late next month before his Tokyo meeting with other leaders of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or “the Quad”—Japan, Australia and India.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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