Lee and Yoon enter final six weeks of South Korean presidential race

Here is today’s Foreign Police brief: South KoreaPresidential race enters six-week home stretch, US hands over written responses to Russiaand Xiomara Castro assumes the presidency of Honduras.

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South Korea’s presidential race heats up

Here is today’s Foreign Police brief: South KoreaPresidential race enters six-week home stretch, US hands over written responses to Russiaand Xiomara Castro assumes the presidency of Honduras.

If you would like to receive Morning Brief in your inbox every weekday, please sign up here.

South Korea’s presidential race heats up

The race for the South Korean presidency is heating up as the main contenders are due to meet next week for their first live debate to argue for the succession of President Moon Jae-in.

With less than six weeks to go until the March 9 vote, the choice is largely between two candidates: Yoon Seok-youl of the conservative People Power party and Lee Jae-myung of Moon’s Democratic party.

Both men are relative outsiders to South Korean politics, as S. Nathan Park noted in FP this month, neither following the usual path from the legislature to the Blue House. Yoon made a name for himself as a prosecutor who helped put former South Korean President Park Geun-hye behind bars, while Lee was more recently governor of Gyeonggi, the country’s most populous province.

Yoon had initially been the favorite by a wide margin until a series of scandals and infighting within the party dragged him down. Lee led most polls in January, but Yoon showed some resilience, leading in the two most recent polls.

Besides the immediate issue of South Korea’s exit from the coronavirus pandemic, the winning candidate will have to tackle the growing inequality and cost-of-living crisis that has plagued the world’s 10th largest economy. The problem is most acute in the housing market, where the average house price in the greater Seoul area has doubled in the past five years.

Lee offered a solution to the country’s economic divide: a universal basic income as well as plans for basic housing and finance programs.

These lofty goals have yet to be matched by the tone of the campaign, which has been noted for its slander. As the two candidates campaign while dealing with a slew of scandals, voters will have to decide which party they think is the lesser of two evils, said Soo Kim, Korea analyst at the RAND Corporation. Foreign Police. The choice will basically come down to “which one we can tolerate for the next five years,” Kim added. “Hopefully Lee or Yoon will be able to refute that.”

When it comes to foreign policy, the two men present radically different visions, as noted by Victor Cha in Foreign Police. While it’s common for a progressive and conservative candidate to disagree on North Korean policy, a range of other diplomatic issues are dividing the candidates this time around, with apparent differences over China, military relations with the United States and energy policy.

What we follow today

Ukrainian developments. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the ball was in Russia’s court after written responses to Russian demands for NATO expansion and security guarantees were returned to Moscow on Wednesday. Although not yet published, the responses will likely follow verbal statements already made by Blinken, which included a rejection of any attempt to restrict NATO expansion, but offered cooperation on arms control. and military exercises.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko said Russia would not be in a hurry to react. “We will read it. Study it. The partners studied our project for almost a month and a half,” Grushko said.

As the United States awaits Russia’s response, prospects for a resolution to Ukraine’s war with pro-Russian separatists have improved after Wednesday’s Normandy format talks in Paris. Russian official Dmitry Kozak said the meeting had reconfirmed a ceasefire and that the four-party talks would continue in two weeks to discuss interpretations of the Minsk protocol.

Enthronement of Castro. US Vice President Kamala Harris will be among the audience of dignitaries today in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa, for the inauguration of Xiomara Castro, who is expected to become the country’s first female president. Castro’s first days in office are already expected to prove difficult after a rebellion within his Free Party blocked the election of his preferred candidate for president of the National Congress last week.

His immediate predecessor, Juan Orlando Hernández, is expected to face a much tougher challenge, with a US indictment for drug trafficking reportedly imminent.

The India-Central Asia Summit. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the virtual host of today’s India-Central Asia Summit, with the presidents of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan all expected to attend the event in line. The meeting, which is expected to discuss Afghanistan as well as regional integration, is the first to take place at the leadership level.

The Afghan crisis. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has called for an unfreezing of around $9 billion in Afghan central bank reserves held in US institutions, warning that the country is “hanging by a thread”. The United States froze the funds in August 2021 to prevent them from entering the hands of the Taliban. Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun condemned the freezing of US assets as “no less deadly than a military intervention”.

Lukashenko speaks. Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko is due to address an extraordinary session of parliament today, although his office has yet to give a reason for his speech. Lukashenko may deliver a long-delayed annual speech after failing to deliver one in 2021.

The small European nation of Andorra suffered a widespread internet blackout earlier this week, affecting more than half of the population of around 77,000 people, following a cyberattack on the country’s only telecommunications company . Was the culprit a state actor? A ransomware gang? Authorities have yet to find those responsible, but they have a motive: to force contestants out of a live tournament for the online game Minecraft, with the last player set to win a $100,000 prize.

Despite being eliminated due to the blackouts, Andorra players Auron (who has over 11.5 million subscribers on his Twitch channel) and Rubius (11 million subscribers) have not given up on their competitive streak and offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who finds the hacker responsible.

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