Today Yoon Suk-yeol will be sworn in as the 13th President of South Korea.
Yoon, of the conservative People Power Party, takes over from the progressive Democratic Party’s (DP) Moon Jae-in, after winning with the lowest-ever electoral margin in South Korean history. Yoon will face several challenges, including skyrocketing property prices, high social tensions and an increasingly bellicose northern neighbor. President Yoon, who gained notoriety as the public prosecutor that helped lock up former President Park Geun-hye, has promised a tougher stance on North Korea. Pyongyang has already conducted 15 missile tests this year, with a nuclear test likely following soon.
Still, Yoon’s greatest challenge may lie closer to home. President Yoon is a political novice, who has the lowest approval rating of any newly-elected South Korean president. He alienated many voters with his pledge to deregulate the economy and by pandering to anti-feminist voices with his promise to scrap the Ministry of Gender Equality. His plans for private sector-led growth will likely further empower the country’s large conglomerates. However, on such matters, he will have to fight the DP, which retains its supermajority in the National Assembly at least until 2024. A deadlock in the legislature is likely.
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David is a Senior Analyst focusing on East Asia. He primarily writes on economic, political, and social issues and how they relate to the geopolitical environment.