2022 is not only the election year for France but also for South Korea: President Moon Jae-in’s term is indeed coming to an end as South Korean law states that a person cannot be elected twice as Head of State. This article concludes a series dedicated to Moon administration’s last year and introduces “Blue House 22”, Geopolitica.info’s feature dedicated to the South Korean presidential elections.
South Korea’s role in the world and the Indo-Pacific
The East Asian country has recently been under the spotlight due to the prolific ballistic activity from the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea. From a cultural point of view, South Korea has conquered the hearts of the masses thanks to the global success of the TV series Squid Game; before the show, the masterpiece directed by Bong Joon-ho, Parasite, has been the first South Korean film ever to win the Cannes’ Palm d’Or. As a matter of fact, the Land of the Morning Calm is making itself a name outside the high-tech field; since the 80s, the nation’s economic prosperity has been driven by the several family-led business conglomerates, named chaebol in Korean: Think, for instance, of Samsung, a leader in the mobile and microchip sectors.
Furthermore, the Korean approach to data governance represents a “third way”, as Feigenbaum and Nelson state in their analysis for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The authors claim that the Sino-American competition, led on multidimensional fronts, is not always outlined in two separate and distinct blocks. Conversely, evidence suggests that India’s and Korea’s approaches to data governance are examples of how States can build normative institutions and digital infrastructures outside the Sino-American competition. In particular, the Republic of Korea (Rok) has developed best practices during the last decades, thanks to being the most connected nation globally.
It is indeed the role played by the country within the competition between China the USA that makes the rok’s election such an important event of 2022. Since the beginning of the “Sunshine Policy“, implemented in 1998 by the eighth President Kim Dae-jung, the first Korean to ever win a Peace Nobel Prize, and carried on by his successor Roh Moo-hyun, South Korea has been an bridging player in the region. After the latter’s term ended and the conservative seized the presidential seat in 2009, political party historically against relaxed relations with the North, the Sunshine Policy has been severely demoted but never totally dismantled.
As a matter of fact, while Conservatives’ economic approach to China has not been harsh, but in the field of national security has been quite the opposite: For instance, during President Park Geun-hye’s mandate, the conservative leader and general Park’s daughter, announced in 2013 the development of the THAAD missile system on Rok’s soil, while Moon’s administration in 2017 surrendered to Beijing economic pressures after a year of tariffs and quota restriction to imports in order to sign an agreement for South Korea military limitations, including the THAAD missile system.
The conservative candidate, former General Prosecutor Yoon Suk-yeol, during the electoral campaign, stated that it would be his concern to speed up the missile system deployment. Furthermore, he pledged to proceed legally against members of the current government concerning not only the real estate scandal that afflicted the country during 2021. Even the Democratic candidate, the governor of Gyeonggi province, Lee Jae-myung, expressed his desire to maintain a tougher stance towards Beijing, especially towards the problem of Chinese fishing boats.
Currently, conservatives seem to be leading the polls for the elections to the Blue House, the presidential residence located in the capital Seoul that gives the name to this column. The difference, however, is of a few digits. Therefore, the purpose of Blue House 22 will be to inform the reader on the developments not only in pre-elections but also in the future on what will be the hot topics of the new administration, involving professors and experts on the matter with interviews and further insights.