Recently, the Constitutional Court of South Korea ruled unanimously to remove President Park Geun-hye from office, the latest in a string of action that started with her impeachment in December on charges of corruption and abuse of power. Park was the first woman to hold the country’s highest office as well as the first person to be removed from office since the country’s founding president fled into exile in 1960. S. Korea will hold an election to replace her on May 9, but her ouster will likely have a “far-ranging” impact on the politics of the region and on the U.S. relations with South Korea and other East Asian countries, said Suzanne Ogden.
Suzanne Ogden is a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science at Northeastern University and an East Asia specialist. Park, seen largely as a conservative icon, will likely be replaced by someone from the opposition party. When asked how will this shift the fraught relationship between North Korea and South Korea, Ogden opined that North Korea (officially known as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea), has had a hostile relationship with S. Korea since the Korean War, but has become far more belligerent in recent years—in part because of the South’s close alignment with the United States. Due to this sudden upheaval in S. Korea’s political sphere, however, North Korea appears at present hesitant to do anything provocative—such as further missile tests or in any way take advantage of the instability in S. Korea—that would cause the South Koreans to oppose the election of Moon.
Moon has consistently promoted reconciliation with the North, and has been opposed to what he and his liberal Democratic Party view as an unhealthy and dependent relationship with the U.S. Regardless of their political leanings, many South Koreans believe that the military alliance with the U.S. is actually endangering their country by raising hostilities both with North Korea and China. American and South Korean “training exercises” in the waters near North Korea—in particular the decision of the South Korean government under former President Park to allow the U.S.