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ROK leader and his country suffer from tilted diplomacy

Updated: 2024-02-21 07:57

Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol and US secretary of state Antony Blinken speak as they attend the Leaders Retreat at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in San Francisco, California, US Nov 17, 2023. [Photo/Agencies]

Republic of Korea President Yoon Suk-yeol was scheduled to start a weeklong visit to Germany and Denmark on Sunday, but four days before the visit, the president's office told the media that considering various recent factors, Yoon is postponing the visit.

It is not clear what forced Yoon to postpone the visit at such short notice, but ROK media believe that the first lady accepting a luxury bag from a pastor could be a reason. Another likely factor could be the ROK's parliamentary elections in April. ROK media reported that some members of the ruling People Power Party to which Yoon belongs had expressed concern to the president's office that Yoon's scheduled visit to Europe would worsen public opinion about the party, putting it at a disadvantage in the parliamentary elections on April 10.

The election marks Yoon's third year in office. It is rare for the president's party to lose a congressional election in the middle of a presidential term, but because of the controversies involving his wife and his government's poor approval rating, Yoon is taking the election seriously.

Since assuming office, the Yoon government has established a "diplomacy first" policy. In the past, the ROK pursued a foreign policy that matched its status as an "intermediate power", with the Korean Peninsula being its top priority. Now, the Yoon government has repeatedly said it will make the ROK a "global hub country", with diplomatic priorities shifting to the "Indo-Pacific" region. The ROK has paid a heavy price for this adjustment. Not long ago, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea announced a change in its policy toward the ROK, saying the North and South no longer belong to the same nation, but are two hostile and belligerent sides.

Meanwhile, the ROK's economy continues to slide, with its economic weight falling from the previous 10th to 13th position in the world in 2022. In the first three quarters of 2023, the ROK's economic aggregate was surpassed by Mexico's.

Given that the "diplomacy first" strategy has not improved the ROK's economic and geopolitical security situation, Yoon's cancellation of the Europe visit should be seen as a no-better-option move.

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