North Korea has loomed large over the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency, with some arguing that all regional security considerations, present and future, have been distilled into this one issue. The election of Moon Jae-in can be expected to reboot the dynamic of inter-Korean tensions, perhaps in a way that is ultimately beneficial to the Trump administration. While there are still several unknowns in a Moon government – the fate of THAAD and by extension the tone of relations with China, for example – one thing that’s certain is that new international talks will be back on the table. And given the profound lack of decisive military options in bringing Pyongyang’s expanding missile and nuclear programs to heel, new talks might be exactly what the US government was hoping for.
Moon Jae-in is a liberal candidate belonging to the Democratic Party of Korea. He served as the chief of staff for former president Roh Moo-Hyun (president from 2003-2008). Roh was an advocate of the ‘Sunshine Policy,’ an inter-Korea approach that sought to minimize differences with the North and focus on points of possible cooperation. The policy’s three core tenets were: not tolerating armed provocations from the North; not seeking to integrate the North; and actively seeking cooperation and cross-cultural exchange whenever possible.