The narrow victory of Roh Moo Hyun in yesterday's presidential election in South Korea will not have been greeted warmly in Washington DC. The only significant issue that separated Mr Roh from his main opponent, Lee Hoi Chang, was that of relations with North Korea. During the campaign Roh insisted that he would continue the so-called “Sunshine Policy” of cultivating the Communist North, initiated by the outgoing President Kim Dae Jung, while his opponent said that the policy should be jettisoned in the light of American objections and the recent admission by the North Korean leaders that they had been secretly carying out a nuclear weapons programme.

The stark point, therefore, is that South Korea's new leader is a man who favours reconciliation and negotiation with a regime that President Bush considers to be one of the three members of the “axis of evil” club. During his campaign Mr Roh said: “Iner-Korean peace and co–operation is not a matter of choice. The survival of 70 million people is at stake.” Although it would be too much to claim that the election was, in effect, a referendum on South Korea's future attitude to the North, Mr Roh can nonetheless claim that his policy on this issue has been endorsed, if only narrowly. Roh Moo Hyun is a self-educated lawyer of 56; while believing in the need for close ties with America he comes from a generation which is less naturally respectful of the US's influence on his country than all his predecessors in office have been.

RAY FLEMING

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