Pyongyang Will Take Advantage of South Korea's Political Vacuum

By Eunjung Lim

Eunjung Lim is a lecturer of Korea Studies at Johns Hopkins SAIS. Her areas of specialization are South Korean and Japanese political economy, comparative politics, and energy security policies of East Asian countries. She has been a researcher and visiting fellow at several institutes including the Center for Contemporary Korean Studies at Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies at the University of Tokyo, the Institute of Japanese Studies at Seoul National University, the Institute of Japan Studies at Kookmin University, and Institute of Energy Economics, Japan. Before joining the SAIS faculty, Eunjung Lim taught at several universities in Korea, including Yonsei University and Korea University.  She earned a B.A. from the University of Tokyo, an M.I.A. from Columbia University and a Ph.D from SAIS, Johns Hopkins University. She is fluent in Korean, Japanese and English.

From South Korea’s point of view, the year of 2016 will be remembered as one of the most challenging years since the armistice of the Korean War was signed in 1953. North Korea conducted its fourth and fifth nuclear tests on January 6 and September 9 respectively, and it continued testing various types of ballistic missiles, more than twenty times in 2016 alone. The international community further strengthened the economic sanctions against North Korea and South Korea’s Park Geun-hye administration painfully decided on the shutdown of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the symbolic region of inter-Korean economic cooperation, to cut off capital inflow from South to North.

Meanwhile, South Korea’s relations with China, the country’s largest trader partner, fell into trouble too. The Park Geun-hye administration has been regarded as a very congenial government to China; however, its decision on deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system sparked a furious backlash from China. South Korean businesses are largely afraid of China’s trade retaliation and growing anti-Korean sentiment among Chinese. Some industries like cosmetics and K-Pop music groups are already experiencing restrictions on their businesses.

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