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Asia Minute: South Korea’s new president calls for domestic growth and international dialogue

APTOPIX South Korea New President Yoon Suk-yeol
Jeon Heon-kyun/AP
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol takes an oath during his inauguration in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, May 10, 2022. (Jeon Heon-kyun/Pool Photo via AP)

Two of this country’s closest allies in the Asia-Pacific are dealing with changes in leadership. In the Philippines, they’re still officially tabulating the vote count, but Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is heading for the presidency. And in South Korea, a new president took office on Tuesday.

South Korea’s new president said in his inaugural address that a key to overcoming social divisions in his country is rapid and sustainable economic growth.

Yoon Suk-yeol won a tight race for the presidency, but his conservative People Power Party is in the minority in South Korea’s parliament.

The opposition Democratic Party holds more than half the 300 seats in the National Assembly — while the PPP has a little more than a third of them.

The approach to North Korea is always a question for any South Korean leader.

And while Yoon has been cooler to Pyongyang than his predecessor Moon Jae-in, the new president promised an “audacious plan” to help North Korea’s economy if Kim Jong-un takes steps toward denuclearization.

Elsewhere in the region, Yoon has spoken about the need for better relations with Japan.

A bigger question mark concerns South Korea’s biggest economic partner — China.

Yoon has said relations with Beijing “will be based on mutual respect.”

The new president has talked about strengthening South Korea’s alliance with the United States — and we’ll hear more about that soon.

President Biden will see Yoon in about a week and a half, the first stop on Biden’s first trip to Asia as president.

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