South Korea has elected Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party as successor of the impeached former President Park Geun-hye. It was a decisive victory for the liberal politician, with voter turnout at a record high of more than 75 per cent.
Moon is taking over at a delicate time and with an ambitious programme. Job creation is one of his top priorities given that the unemployment rate among under-30s is at a record 10 per cent. Moon has pledged to boost employment, especially in the public services sector, shifting the focus away from the traditional chaebols. But the Democratic Party does not have a majority in parliament, so deep reforms seem to be unlikely for the time being.
On foreign policy, Moon has vowed to tackle the delicate situation with North Korea and its advancing nuclear ambitions. He will also need to negotiate with Washington and Beijing to diffuse the tensions over the US THAAD missile system presence in South Korea.
Conversely, the British Ambassador to South Korea, Charles Hay, has expressed his optimism over bilateral relations between South Korea and the UK. Ambassador Hay will join Asia House corporate members tomorrow morning to discuss the recent developments in South Korea.
Taking place two days after the South Korean election, the discussion will be able to give insights into the political and economic environment moving forward.
Ambassador Hay took up his appointment in Seoul in February 2015. During his time in the Diplomatic Service he also had postings in the Czech Republic, Spain (where he was Deputy Head of Mission), and at the UK’s Representation to the EU in Brussels. In London he headed the team that ran the UK G8 Presidency in 2005. Prior to his posting in Seoul, he was the FCO’s Director of Consular Services, based in London, responsible for assisting British Nationals and for FCO crisis management worldwide.