When North Korea revealed its plans to launch a rocket this month, South Korean president Lee Myung-bak accused Pyongyang of trying to interfere in his country’s December 19 presidential election. But it is not clear how Wednesday’s apparently successful launch will affect the result of the poll, or the victor’s policy towards North Korea. The two leading contenders, Park Geun-hye of Mr Lee’s conservative New Frontier party, and Moon Jae-in of the liberal Democratic United party, have both vowed to pursue fresh negotiations with North Korea if elected. While each condemned the rocket launch as a threat to international security, neither gave any indication of reduced willingness to push for talks aimed at economic co-operation and eventual reunification.
Both candidates stress that they would put pressure on North Korea to wind down its nuclear programme, but with a more flexible approach than Mr Lee, who demanded evidence of progress towards “denuclearisation” before he would engage in talks.
“Both of them will try to make a rapprochement with North Korea – instead of ignoring it, there will be engagement and dialogue,” says Phillip Park, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.
However, analysts say that Ms Park would pursue a more cautious strategy than her liberal rival. She has scorned the idea of holding talks with North Korean officials “just for the sake of having a meeting”. And she has demanded that Pyongyang apologise formally for the 2010 shelling of a South Korean island and the sinking of the Cheonan gunboat, the latter an incident that Pyongyang has never admitted to.
Full Article: Impact on S Korean election unclear – FT.com.