Election 2017: the Future of US-Korea Relations

From left: H.E. Sung-Chul Yang, moderator John Delury and H.E. Young-Jin Choi

April 18, 2017 - Asia Society Korea hosted its April Monthly Luncheon on Tuesday at the Lotte Hotel Seoul. Panelists H.E. Young-Jin Choi and H.E. Sung-Chul Yang joined moderator John Delury to talk about “Election 2017: the Future of US-Korea Relations.” Board members Dr. Hong-Koo Lee and Young-Joon Kim were among the many distinguished guests in attendance. With the current tensions on the peninsular, the timing of the luncheon took on extra significance with North Korea being discussed at length by the two diplomatic scholars. In addition, the panel shared their thoughts on the upcoming election in Korea and the future bilateral relationship with the Trump administration.

His Excellency Yang is a distinguished professor at Korea University in Seoul and a former Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States. From 1996 to 2000, Yang was also a member of the Korean National Assembly where he served as Vice Chair of the Unification and Foreign Affairs Committee. For Yang, the new president elected on June 9th will first have to tackle the issue of foreign policy; this involves developing a strong relationship with the U.S. while also encouraging China to take a more proactive role in helping dismantle North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction. He believes that China can play a key role in encouraging North Korea to rejoin the International Atomic Energy Agency, help freeze Pyeongyang’s development of uranium and plutonium and ultimately disarm their nuclear program.

The second panelist, His Excellency Young-Jin Choi, is likewise a former Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States and the former Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2007. Choi also believes that the incoming South Korean president must put U.S. bilateral relations and the North Korean issue at the forefront of policymaking. This however will provide a huge challenge as South Korean diplomacy is under siege with the country having very few friends outside of the U.S. The THAAD deployment has ripped apart relations with China, while ongoing issues related to wartime comfort women has put Japan and Korea on hugely unfavorable terms.