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article imageOp-Ed: Polls open in South Korea left-leaning candidate leads in polls

By Ken Hanly     May 8, 2017 in Politics
Seoul - The polls are already open in the South Korean presidential election. The election was called seven months early after a corruption scandal that resulted in President Park Geun-hye being removed from power by impeachment.
The clear leader according to polls is Moon Jae-in with centrist Ahn Cheoi-soo in second place, Moon is in favor of increasing contacts with the north He is the candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea. If Moon wins there could be increased tensions with Washington. Moon lost by a narrow margin to Park Geun-hye in the last election in 2012. Park is due to stand trial on charges of bribery and abuse of power. Some of Korea's largest companies including Samsung are caught up in the scandal
After the Park impeachment, her party renamed itself to the Liberty Korea Party, and nominated party stalwart Hong Jun-pyo as its representative. David Voldzko, of a Korean newspaper said "In a Facebook post he made last month, he said that he wanted to be a strong man, like Park Chung-hee, whatever that means," Because of his offensive remarks made from time to time he has earned the nicknames Hong Trump. When he was asked if he helped around the house or did the dishes he replied:'No, that's a woman's job. I don't do the dishes.'" Many of his supporters consider Moon a communist because he is willing to talk with North Korea and believe Hong would be better than Moon bad as he is.
Moon Jae-in is now far ahead in the polls at about 40 percent with his nearest rivals around 20 percent. The second place candidate Ahn Cheoi-soo is a businessman and newcomer. He a tech guru and businessman, not part of the establishment. However, he is now seen by many as a candidate who could possibly keep Moon from winning and many conservatives apparently are now supporting him leaving Hong further back in the polls. Although he is categorized as centrist compared to Moon some of his policies sound leftist. He wants to increase the capital gains tax, criticizes free trade agreements, and is in favor of more public welfare programs. He also favor stimulus programs. He wants to provide money for small business start-ups and this attracts some conservatives.
Newspaper man Volodzko said of Moon: "Everything leads me to believe that he would probably open dialogue with North Korea and that would at least help to alleviate some of the tension.He also seems like one of the more likely candidates to try to engage positively with China." Moon`s plan may not fit well with the Trump approach to North Korea according to Zack Cooper of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. Zack says that Trump wants to raise pressure on North Korea until it is willing to negotiate on his terms. If Moon opens negotiations early Trump`s plan could fail. Rather it would seem to be sidelined and not applicable. South Korea would be guilty of carrying out its own foreign policy rather than doing what the US wants, As Zack puts it: "If the escape valve is open before the pressure increases, then there's really no reason for North Korea to come to the table.In fact there could be a risk of a bit of a division, between a South Korean Government that's more open to engagement with North Korea, and the Unites States and Japan, which are looking for more pressure on North Korea."
The US insisted on quickly deploying the THAAD missile system in spite of protests and even though a new government will be taking power soon. I expect that this was deliberate in order to have the system in place already. Moon has voiced strong opposition to the system, China and Russia also object to the system. Moon has said he would stop the project if elected but the US claims the system is already operational. It may be difficult for Moon to roll back the system now it is in place. However it remains to be seen what he will do. We may soon find that there is tension not just between North and South Korea but between South Korea and the United States.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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