REPUBLIC OF KOREA ELECTS A NEW PRESIDENT
December 17, 2007, US Time
The Republic of Korea is 13 hours ahead of US Central Standard Time. December 18 is Election Day in the ROK. A new President will be elected for five years. He will be inaugurated on February 25, 2008. There is no Vice President; the Prime Minister, appointed, acts in that capacity as required.
The Republic of Korea and its allies—principally the United States—face a tough future. The outgoing President was quite gracious to Korean War Veterans even though he was said by some to have strong pro-North Korean bias. Our KWVA dealings have been mainly with the Korean Veterans Association, some six million members, in Seoul. The KVA was a part of the ROK Defense Ministry for many years. It was moved to the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs several years ago. It is said that all political parties have to pay close attention to the KVA.
Another extremely strong conservative group in the ROK are the Christians. They and their allies of other faiths, and of no faiths, comprise up to 45 to 70% of the population. The Christians have become closely allied with the KVA in recent years as the President appeared to some to become more and more pro-North. A very large portion of the Christian movements includes large numbers of refugees from North Korea and has understandably pressed extremely hard for human rights and for the return of thousands of Southerners imprisoned in the North, as well as the Northern relatives of South Koreans suffering under the communist regime.
I have been loosely in touch with most of the candidates for several months for contingency purposes. Admittedly we have maintained closer contact with the leading candidates than the others. The candidate expected to win today’s election is Former Mayor of Seoul, Lee Myung-bak. He has an impressive record of accomplishments. He had previously served in the National Assembly before his election as Mayor. The Department of Virginia provided an honor guard for Mayor Lee Myung-bak when he placed a wreath at our Memorial in the Winter of 2006 (March-April 2006 Graybeards, p36).
Whoever is elected today/tomorrow in Seoul should expect all the burdens of leadership in the Korean-American Alliance to quickly press in on his abilities, time, energy, and resources. May Koreans believe the Alliance has suffered considerable neglect in the past few years. Our own relations towards Korea have dealt mainly through the KVA and our own Armed Forces stationed in Korea. We have found the KVA, the Korean Armed Forces, and the US Forces to be wanting in no respect, and for that both we and the incoming President of the Republic of Korea should be very grateful.