mandag 7. mars 2022

South Korea’s presidential candidates face balancing act amid rising anti-China sentiment

When Moon Jae-in, the outgoing president of South Korea, returned home from Washington in May last year, his foreign minister, Chung Eui-yong, rushed to clarify the mention of Taiwan in his joint statement with Joe Biden – a highly sensitive subject for South Korea’s biggest trading partner, China.

“The Taiwan-related expressions [in the joint statement] are ‘very general expressions’,” Chung said a day after the statement was released. As if this clarification was not enough, Chung’s deputy, Choi Jong-gun, added: “China would appreciate the fact that South Korea does not see China as an enemy.”

For South Korea, its position sandwiched between two great rival powers – the US and China – has been a notable discomfort for occupants of the presidential Blue House. The country of nearly 52 million people relies on Washington to provide security in facing North Korea’s constant provocation. China, meanwhile, is its top trading partner.