DPRK threats get spotlight in ROK presidential election

World Today

The presidential snap election in the Republic of Korea is about a week away.  In the debates among the leading candidates, the threat of nuclear war from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is getting a lot of attention.

CGTN’s Jack Barton reports.

DPRK threats get spotlight in ROK presidential election

The presidential snap election in the Republic of Korea is about a week away. And in the debates among the leading candidates, the threat of nuclear war from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is getting a lot of attention.

Even with bellicose threats from Pyongyang and Washington, there’s not much Seoul can do until after a snap election on May 9, a result from the impeachment and arrest of former president Park Geun-hye.

The threats from the DPRK have been getting even more airtime in this presidential campaign in Seoul, than the economy or corruption.

Presidential rivals have indulged in a war of words over who can best protect the south from a potential attack from the north.

The front-runner Democratic Party, led by Moon Jae-in, is calling for a carrot and stick approach: United Nations sanctions would be toughened for further missile or bomb tests and Seoul’s military budget would grow by 3 percent.

But the party also wants to re-open the six-party talks that include China, Japan and the U.S. and a restart a limited version of the Republic of Korea’s abandoned Sunshine Policy.

“We would like to persuade them to give up their nuclear weapons or weapons of mass destruction and to try to open up their market. Then, we, along with our allies, can help them to improve their economy,” says Congressman Pyo Chang-won of the Minjoo Democratic Party.

The People’s Party led by Ahn Cheol-soo is also polling strongly, and supports dialogue with the DPRK, within limits.

“Mr Ahn, who is a sort of a more moderate front-runner, and second to Mr. Moon, has expressed a bit more careful approach [with the DPRK] where engagement is certainly a possibility,” says James Kim from the Asan Institute for Policy Studies. “But it’s certainly not going to be the bread and butter of his administration should he be elected.”

Both of the leading campaigners are liberals who want to tone down the tensions and angry rhetoric currently fanning the flames. But both politicians also back a strong defense relationship with the United States and neither is talking about dismantling the recently deployed THAAD anti-missile system that has angered China.

It’s perhaps no surprise given that Seoul’s armed forces capabilities, whether it is tanks, troops or planes, is, in most areas, less than half the strength of Pyongyang’s.