South Korean Political Crisis Poses Challenge for Trump Administration

South Korea is embroiled in a fast-moving political scandal that will lead to the removal of President Park Geun-hye and could well endanger critical national security policies and strain the alliance relationship with the United States. President Park’s political life hangs by a thread, and it is only a matter of time before she either resigns or is impeached.

The crisis has prevented President Park from establishing relations with the incoming Trump Administration. Her departure from office would lead to policy paralysis and a political vacuum in a critical U.S. ally at a time when Washington and Seoul should be closely coordinating alliance defense plans and North Korea sanctions policy.

President Park has been a steadfast and reliable partner to the United States in confronting North Korea, particularly after Pyongyang’s fourth nuclear test in January. After initial counterproductive policies that strained relations with Japan, Park displayed commendable political courage by reaching out to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Unfortunately, there is nothing that Washington can do to ameliorate President Park’s woes. The collapse of Park Geun-hye’s presidency and her likely replacement by a progressive candidate may be President Donald Trump’s first foreign policy crisis.

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