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(News Focus) S. Korean parties startled by U.S. election outcome

2016/11/09 20:45

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEOUL, Nov. 9 (Yonhap) -- South Korean political parties are scrambling to cope with the unexpected result of the U.S. presidential race, political pundits said Wednesday, with local politicians struggling to find ways to establish ties with President-elect Donald Trump.

Entrepreneur-turned-politician Trump was elected the 45th president of the United States after grabbing more than the 270 electoral votes needed to get into the White House, although major polls earlier hinted his counterpart Hillary Clinton would win the hotly contested race.

Compared to Hilary, who has been building ties with South Korean officials formed when she was secretary of state, observers said Trump had few opportunities to meet local figures.

"In South Korea, there is virtually no one that has ties with Trump. We need to build relationships now," a lawmaker from the ruling Saenuri Party said, insisting Trump is new to South Korea's political and diplomacy realms.

Chung Mong-joon, former head of the conservative Grand National Party, the predecessor of the ruling Saenuri Party, is currently one of the few figures that has a link to the Trump camp, political insiders said. Chung reportedly holds ties to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense.

He is also known to have built ties with Edwin Feulner, the former president of The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump participates in a tape-cutting ceremony marking one of his business projects in Seoul in this file photo taken in May 1999. (Yonhap) U.S. President-elect Donald Trump participates in a tape-cutting ceremony marking one of his business projects in Seoul in this file photo taken in May 1999. (Yonhap)

Rep. Ahn Sang-soo of Saenuri also met Trump in September 2008 related to the construction of a building in Incheon, west of Seoul, when he served as the city's mayor, along with the president-elect's daughter Ivanka. Ahn said Trump said then that South Koreans were diligent and honest, adding he had done good business here.

In the opposition bloc, Rep. Kim Chong-in, former interim head of the main opposition Democratic Party, is known to be familiar with figures from Trump's campaign.

Political pundits said the limited number of politicians with ties with Trump will have an adverse impact on South Korea's communication with Washington.

During the meeting with government officials, Rep. Kim Gwang-lim, Saenuri's chief policymaker, said participants agreed to make a concerted effort to expand communications with Trump and his advisors.

Amid the lack of connections, presidential hopefuls from both ruling and opposition blocs agreed that the U.S. election result was a reflection of public anger against established politicians.

"The result shows public sentiment can be haunting," Rep. Kim Moo-sung of Saenuri said, while adding Seoul and Washington's alliance will not be changed despite the election results.

Rep. Yoo Seong-min, another Saenuri lawmaker cited as a potential contender for next year's race, said South Korea is currently facing a crucial moment, as it faces changes in security and economic circumstances.

Moon Jae-in, former head of the main opposition Democratic Party, sent a congratulatory letter to the U.S. embassy in Seoul, adding Trump's election reflected the U.S. citizen's yearning to head towards the future.

"The alliance between South Korea and the U.S., which has endured for more than 60 years, is the foundation for peace on the Korean Peninsula," Moon also said, adding Seoul wishes to deepen relations to overcome the North Korean nuke issue.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, also from the Democratic Party, added Seoul should reorganize its systems to prepare for potential changes in the world order.

He said that South Korean President Park Geun-hye's resignation at this point will minimize adverse impacts on the country's diplomacy and state affairs.

Park has been embroiled in a scandal involving her long-time confidante who has been accused of meddling in state affairs. This scandal has raised the question of whether or not the chief executive can manage state affairs effectively during the remainder of her term that ends in February 2018.

Pundits added the ruling and opposition parties will also seek to supplement their campaign pledges for next year's race to meet potential changes sparked by Trump's nomination, especially as the president-elect hinted at reexamining the two countries' free trade agreement as well as greater cost-sharing for U.S. troops stationed here.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (Yonhap) U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (Yonhap)

colin@yna.co.kr

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