South Koreans react to US midterm elections

SEOUL (The Korea Herald/ANN) -  South Koreans show great interest in the 2018 midterm elections in US, with public opinions split.

The 2018 midterm elections, which saw some of the most highly contested battles in US politics and a record-high voter turnout, received close attention in South Korea, dominating Wednesday’s headlines. 

And just like the newly split US Congress, with the Republicans holding the Senate and the Democrats taking the House of Representatives, public opinion here is somewhat divided.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said the outcome of the US elections would have no major impact on the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

“The South Korea-US alliance and a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear issue has always received bipartisan support (on Capitol Hill), and we are analyzing trends in many possible scenarios,” Kang said during a National Assembly session.

But her comment did not stop some people from worrying. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s Thursday meeting with his North Korean counterpart, Kim Yong-chol, was postponed Tuesday. When Trump was asked to comment on the matter during a press conference a day after Election Day, he said the US was in “no rush.”

A person using South Korea’s major web portal, Naver, floated the thought that “(Trump) seems to have used North Korea politically. It could derail Moon Jae-in’s political plan (for a speedy resolution for peace).”

Opinions varied, however, with another South Korean writing on Twitter, “Trump saved face and the Democratic Party now has the power to check and balance President Trump and the Republican Party.”

And in a tweet that was retweeted 160 times, a third commenter wrote, “Trump is a person who becomes more active with foreign policy when there is pressure at home, which leads me to believe he’ll put more effort into the peace process between the South and the North. This is a good scenario for our country.” 

Some South Koreans praised US voters, with one person writing this in reference to the split Congress: “Unlike South Korea, US citizens don’t just sway one way or the other. They are obviously members of a developed country.”

South Korean presidents usually win by a comfortable margin. For example, in 2017, President Moon Jae-in defeated his conservative opponent, Hong Jun-pyo, by a margin of over 17 percent.

The local elections in June also saw the incumbent Democratic Party of Korea take home over 50 percent of the vote, while the main opposition Liberty Korea Party earned 27.8 percent.

First Korean-American congresswoman Young Kim made history by becoming the first Korean-American woman to join the US House of Representatives.

The 56-year-old Republican won in a highly contested race in California’s 39th district against democratic candidate Gil Cisneros. The last Korean-American legislator was Jay Kim, who served between 1993 and 1999.

The news garnered heavy media coverage in South Korea, with headlines focusing on her Korean heritage.

During an interview with the press, Kim said she hoped to build bridges between South Korea and the US.

Democrat Andy Kim, another Korean-American, is leading a tight race in New Jersey’s 3rd district and is projected to win with 99 percent of the ballots already counted.


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