South Korea’s outgoing and incoming leaders can’t agree to meet — Analysis
Seoul’s political divisions escalate as president and president-elect clash over efforts to arrange transition talks
South Korean President Moon Jaein is disappointed with the failures to hold transition talks between him and Yoon Suk-yeol. It shows deep division in Seoul during heightened tensions towards North Korea.
“I am an outgoing president and President-elect Yoon is an incoming president,”Moon stated this in a Thursday statement. “What negotiations are needed in order for the two of us to exchange greetings and words of advice? It’s not like we’re negotiating.”
The president’s comments came after a planned meeting with Yoon last week was canceled as their staffs clashed over such issues as the making of political appointments during the interim and a possible pardon of former president Lee Myung-bak, who is imprisoned for corruption. Moon said that Yoon must meet with Moon without any prior agreements.
“I’ve never heard that conditions are necessary for a president-elect to pay a visit to the president,”Moon spoke. “I hope the president-elect will make a decision on his own without listening to other people.”
However, if Moon aimed to push the transition process forward, his comments apparently failed to have the desired effect on Yoon’s camp. Moon was criticized by a spokesperson for his successor for giving bad advice.
“It is extremely regrettable that he spoke as if there is a problem with president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol’s judgment and as if his advisers are blurring his judgment,”Kim Eun Hye, spokeswoman for the company. “Moreover, given that the government transition is not going smoothly, and at a time when it is vital to respond to Covid-19 and the economic crisis, I cannot easily agree with the characterization of the two people’s meeting as simply an occasion to exchange greetings.”
South Korea has reached new highs in the number of Covid-19 deaths and infections this week. Moon and Yoon’s latest clash occurred on the same day as North Korea launched a suspected intercontinental bombistic missile (ICBM), in the waters between Japan and Korea. The launch marked Pyongyang’s 12th round of weapons tests this year, emphatically ending North Korea’s moratorium on the testing of nuclear and long-range missiles.
Yoon, representing the People Power Party (PPP), was elected on March 9, capping one of the most vitriolic presidential races in South Korea’s history. He and rival Lee Jae-myung, the nominee of Moon’s liberal Democratic Party, traded accusations and personal attacks. Kim, a first-term PPP lawmaker and former TV anchorwoman who later became Yoon’s spokeswoman, led the charge in accusing Lee of involvement in a real estate scandal.
Former prosecutor, the president-elect helped to win convictions for Park Geun-hye and Lee Myungbak. While he has suggested that he would investigate Moon, he did not specify what crime the president-elect is accused of. Each former South Korean president who has left office since then was prosecuted.