Go to Contents Go to Navigation

(News Focus) After change of power, Yoon faces daunting task of cooperating with liberal bloc

All News 04:34 March 10, 2022

By Kim Deok-hyun

SEOUL, March 10 (Yonhap) -- President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol faces not a few challenges as he heads into Cheong Wa Dae, and top among them are how to work with an unfriendly National Assembly controlled by what would be the main opposition party and heal deep national divisions laid bare in the ugly race.

Yoon's People Power Party (PPP) returns to power five years after President Park Geun-hye was impeached and ousted from office in the middle of her term for corruption and President Moon Jae-in took over as new leader.

Yoon's lack of experience in electoral politics raises questions about whether he can smoothly work with the National Assembly to push ahead with his agenda at a time when the liberal Democratic Party (DP) holds a majority.

Including the DP, the liberal bloc holds some 180 seats in the 300-seat Assembly. Without their help, Yoon's presidency could end up in a "vegetative" state unable to pass key agenda items until the next parliamentary elections in 2024.

For instance, the one-house National Assembly, controlled by the DP, can vote down Yoon's nominee for prime minister. Political watchers said Yoon must seek "cooperative politics" with the liberal bloc.

Victory for Yoon, a former top prosecutor who has never held an elected office before winning the presidential election, suggests that South Korean voters are tired of politicians and the political establishment.

The results also deliver a clear message: voters can change government every five years unless their livelihoods improve, regardless of political ideals and principles.

Surveys showed in the run-up to the election that about 50 percent of respondents wanted a change of power as the Moon Jae-in administration has been under fire over soaring home prices amid the ever-widening wealth gap.

The election was also seen by many as the country's worst election because of the high degree of negative campaigning on all sides, with the public's aversion to the candidates running so high that the race came to be known as the "unlikeable election."

This file photo shows President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

Another imminent political challenge for Yoon is how to form a "joint government" with Ahn Cheol-soo of the minor People's Party. Last week, Ahn dropped out of the presidential race and declared his support for Yoon under a candidacy merger deal.

It remains unclear how Yoon and Ahn will share power. Yoon said he will honor Ahn's wishes and jointly create a "successful government of national unity." They also called for a merger of the two parties immediately after the election.

Beyond political challenges, the immediate task for Yoon will be COVID-19 responses and how to help spur an economic recovery from the pandemic.

Driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant, daily COVID-19 cases soared to hit a record high of more than 340,000 on Wednesday. Daily infections exceeded the 300,000 mark for the first time just a week after topping 200,000 on March 2.

Yoon has pledged to provide 50 trillion won (US$41.7 billion) in loans to small merchants and spend another 43 trillion won to give cash handouts to small merchants hit by the pandemic.

Also, Yoon's top priority at home is reining in soaring home prices. Yoon has vowed to supply 2.5 million new homes over the next five years and ease regulations to curb home prices.

Yoon has said he will lower capital gains and property ownership taxes to increase transactions.

This file photo shows President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The election has been closely watched by allies and neighbors, with North Korea believed to be poised for more weapon testings. Four days before the election, Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile toward the East Sea, its ninth show of force this year.

Observers said the North's latest missile test could be a prelude to preparations for a long-range rocket launch amid stalled denuclearization talks with the United States.

Yoon's election could have a significant impact on South Korea's relations with North Korea, the U.S. and China.

Yoon took a hard line on North Korea, saying he will seek to further strengthen the U.S. extended deterrence to cope with threats from North Korea.

Yoon said he will also try to resume nuclear talks with North Korea based on a predictable denuclearization road map, a reciprocity principle, and close cooperation between South Korea and the U.S.

International sanctions against the North should be maintained until its complete denuclearization, Yoon said.

While forging a deeper alliance with the U.S. Yoon said he will retool Seoul's relations with Beijing.

Yoon said China's top priority is to keep the stability of North Korea's Kim Jong-un regime, rather than the denuclearization of Pyongyang.


Send Feedback
How can we improve?
Thanks for your feedback!