Political Dramas on Both Sides of the Pacific
By Magnus Lundström
One could safely say that the rest of the world was in a state of shock. All opinion polls turned out to be wrong, and when the smoke and dust from the battlefield was settling, the real-estate billionaire, Donald J. Trump, had won the election for the 45th presidency of the United States. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic party’s candidate, had lost. Everything was to the world’s astonishment, but also fear. The days following Mr. Trump’s election were characterized by riots and protests in many American cities, people who did not see him as “their president,” expressed their dissatisfaction with the election result.
Other demonstrations and protests around the world received, in comparison, limited attention. One of those – although held a few days earlier – was the demonstration in Seoul, South Korea, demanding the resignation of president Park Geun-hye. It was a massive demonstration, amounting to between 100,000 and 200,000 participants. During the past weeks, a corruption scandal at the very top has unfolded, and rocked the Korean society to its democratic core. It has been revealed that a close friend of president Park, a wealthy businesswoman called Choi Soon-sil, was involved in reviewing the president’s speeches, policy suggestions and potential state secrets. This has been confirmed by the president herself. This – among other aspects of this scandal – has enraged the Korean society and the president’s approval rate hit a rock bottom with a shocking 9 percent nationally. An independent investigation from the justice department has started, and president Park has begged for forgiveness on national television. On the following Saturday (Nov. 12th), closer to a million people took to the streets in Seoul and demanded president Park’s resignation.
Not only does South Korea now suffer from its worst corruption scandal in the country’s short democratic history, but also from the fear to be abandoned by its US ally in the face of a North Korean attack. With the election of Mr. Trump, who has stated that he is prepared to withdraw military support, not only from the Baltic NATO members, but also from East Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea, those fears have become much more substantial. However, on this Thursday (Nov. 10th), it was reported that the president-elect Trump, called president Park from New York. According to president Park’s office, Mr. Trump “pledged his commitment to defending” South Korea in an event of war with North Korea. The 28,500 American troops stationed in South Korea will stay for now. It was not just president Park in Seoul who received a call from the president-elect. Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe was alerted that the Trump administration would “consider him an ally in pushing back China,” according to a Trump security-advisor. Japan’s prime minister Mr. Abe has also scheduled a meeting with Mr. Trump in New York next week. The main concern which Mr. Trump has expressed is the costs of maintaining the American military in South Korea and Japan. Demands from the future White House incumbent are quite clear: East Asian countries must pay a larger amount of these military expenses.
Currently, we all live in a state of uncertainty as to what to expect from the future American president Donald Trump. One thing is for sure; that every government and administration of the world is as uncertain as the next. Power balances of the world can shift depending on the decisions made by the new president, not least in East Asia. So far, during his campaign, Mr. Trump has sent many mixed messages, and it will be interesting to see what he settles for – when it comes to many different fields. All this lies in the future, a very near future. On January 20th, 2017, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America.
By Magnus Lundström