In the huge May Day stadium in Pyongyang on September 19, 2018, a crowd of 150,000 North Koreans cheers South Korean President Moon Jae-in, on an official visit. For the tireless advocate of inter-Korean dialogue, this trip to North Korea could have sealed a historic reconciliation and lasting peace on the peninsula.
→ TO ANALYSE. In South Korea, a presidential campaign polluted by scandals
A year later, Pyongyang puts an end to the negotiations and the doors of History close on Moon Jae-in. “This is the drama of Moon Jae-in’s tenure, explains with hindsight Go Myong-hyun, researcher at the Asan Institute in Seoul. He has made significant progress mais, as soon as Kim Jong-un resumed his hostile statements, this positive legacy flew away. »
In 2017 Moon Jae-in embodied a new democratic Korea
Widely elected in 2017 after the impeachment of conservative President Park Geun-hye, accused of corruption and embezzlement, Moon Jae-in embodied the hope for a democratic, peaceful and prosperous South Korea. To do this, Moon bet on reconciliation with the North, which would also revive the South Korean economy.
→ REREAD. Korea: the underside of the rapprochement between Pyongyang and Seoul
Three summits are held between Kim and Moon. As much with US President Donald Trump. South Koreans are beginning to believe in a beneficial rapprochement with the North. Successes which bring the popularity of Moon Jae-in to 68% of favorable opinions the same year. “Since then, we have seen a return to normal on the peninsula, Judge Go. But Moon sought to the end to appear as a craftsman of rapprochement with the North. »
A mixed economic record
His strength of conviction has given better results in the fight against the Covid epidemic. Traumatized by the previous “seas” virus (respiratory syndrome) in 2015, the country has been able to limit the number of deaths to around 9,000 in two years, for 52 million inhabitants. The so-called strategy of “test, trace, treat” made it possible to get through the crisis without confinement. “During the early days of the pandemic, it prevented the explosion of cases and allowed economic life to continue.insists Park Sang-in, professor of economics at Seoul National University. But the health policy mainly favored large companies to the detriment of small ones, which had been suffering for two years, ” tempers the economist.
In South Korea, anti-feminism is popular
Business restrictions on restaurants and cafes have hit the self-employed hardest, who make up 25% of the country’s workforce. Added to this is the relentless rise in real estate prices: the average price of an apartment in Seoul has almost doubled under his tenure. “This is the main weak point of his mandate”, according to Park, who recalls that Moon was elected on “promises of social justice and economic democracy”. But even if the reforms in this area have not lived up to expectations and the country’s economy remains dependent on chaebol (large conglomerates), South Korea recorded in 2021 its greatest growth in eleven years.
Finally, unlike all his predecessors who often found themselves behind bars, no scandal has smeared Moon Jae-in, and his image remains intact. This explains the 44% of favorable opinions which he enjoys a few days before the end of his mandate.