South Koreans are almost certain to elect liberal Moon Jae-in, the son of North Korean refugees who came to the South during the 1950-53 Korean War. Moon has promised to reopen the Kaesong complex, the signature project of the so-called “Sunshine Policy” of engagement with North Korea pursued earlier this century.
But reopening Kaesong could go against the spirit of U.N. sanctions to prevent money from going into North Korea’s banned weapons programs, government officials and experts say. And for Moon to justify a return to engagement, North Korea would first need to at least signal a concession, said Lim Eul-chul, a professor at Kyungnam University in South Korea.
Critics say hundreds of millions of dollars paid to North Korea over the years as wages for workers at Kaesong were used to fund the development of nuclear weapons and missiles. North Korea had demanded that the wages be paid to the state and not directly to the workers.
Jong Kun Choi, who advises the 64-year-old Moon on foreign policy, said the candidate believes better inter-Korean relations is the best way to provide security on the Korean peninsula. Moon, a human rights lawyer who was a top aide to the late president Roh, has Washington worried his more moderate approach could undercut efforts to increase pressure and sanctions on Pyongyang, senior South Korean government officials said.
Moon’s election would also complicate the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. He has repeatedly said the incoming administration should decide whether to deploy the anti-missile system and it should be ratified by parliament.