South Korea’s New President

With exit polls strongly indicating that Democratic Party candidate, Moon Jae-in will become South Korea’s next president, here’s our round-up of his policy platform.

North Korea

A permanent and peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue is one of Moon’s top priorities. Accordingly, he has vowed to develop south Korea’s defense capabilities to counter threats from the DPRK. He has been positive towards the re-opening of Kaesong and said it would contribute to mitigating military tensions and help activate economic cooperation between the two Koreas. However, he has  emphasized that cross-border dialogue will be difficult in the event of a sixth nuclear test.

Foreign policy

Moon has pledged to review the decision on the deployment of THAAD, however, he underscored that if the North carries out a sixth nuclear test, THAAD would become inevitable. With regard to South Korea-U.S. relations, Moon is an advocate of an equal relationship between the two countries and has even called for an early recovery of wartime operational control (OPCON) of South Korean forces. Furthermore, he wishes to renegotiate the 2015 deal between South Korea and Japan on wartime sexual slavery (also known as the “comfort women” issue) to include a more sincere apology from Japan.


Moon has made unemployment his first priority. During the run-up to the election, he pledged to create 810,000 new jobs in the public sector, and has even said that these public sector jobs would help to generate an additional 500,000 jobs in the private sector each year. Further, he has vowed that his government will provide additional support to young people and promised to temporarily expand the number of jobs in the public sector that are reserved for young people from 3% to 5%.

Under his economic reform plans, Moon promised to increase the minimum wage to 10,000 won (US$8.85) an hour by 2020 from the current 6,470 won and to improve working conditions and gender equality for women. He also vowed to initiate better welfare policies for the elderly and has promised to provide a monthly allowance of 300,000 won to all elderly people in the lower 70 percent of the income bracket. Moreover, he pledged additional support for child rearing, a move aimed at boosting the country’s low birth rate.


Given the scandals that have plagued South Korean senior politicians and executives, Moon has pledged to increase transparency in the management structure of the conglomerates (or chaebol). To prevent such companies from making excessive or unwarranted profits based on their market dominance or vast resources, Moon said he will work to enable class action through legal revisions while also reforming the Fair-Trade Commission.

Air pollution

Moon has promised to do everything in his power to “make South Korea an environmentally clean country.” To this end, he has pledged to significantly curtail fine dust pollution, known to cause various respiratory problems and affect the body’s immune system. Consequently, he has vowed to reduce fine dust by 30 percent within his term by suspending old coal-fueled power plants during spring time, stopping the construction of new power plants. He has also promised to strengthen cooperation with Chinese leaders on the issue since fine dust particles are thought to originate both from domestic sources and the western deserts of China.

Eleonora Rossi is currently completing an internship at ISDP.