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Good Moon Rising

What South Korea's New President Means for Asia

South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the National Cemetary in Seoul, May 2017. Kim Hong-ji / Reuters

After a decade of conservative rule culminating in the March 2017 impeachment of President Park Geun-hye, South Koreans unsurprisingly voted for change, electing Moon Jae-in of the left-leaning Democratic Party to the presidency in May. Moon campaigned on a largely domestic platform, but critics have suggested that his election could lead to a chill in U.S.–South Korean relations. What does his arrival in the Blue House portend for Seoul’s approach to North Korea and regional geopolitics over the next five years?

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At the most basic level, Moon’s election restores a needed legitimacy to the South Korean government, both at home and abroad, that had been lost during the Park administration’s long collapse. This legitimacy is especially important today given the heightened tensions on the Korean Peninsula: U.S. President Donald Trump has made dealing with North Korea’s nuclear missile program a priority,

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