Moon Jae-in is running out of time. South Korean presidents wield great power – but not for long. The 1987 Constitution of the Sixth Republic of Korea, which ended four decades of dictatorships, mandates a single five-year stint. No second term is allowed.
The democracy thus created has proved robust, in several senses. Politics is fierce and hard-fought, but election results are respected. Power has regularly changed hands between Left and Right, in what has become a broadly two-party system.
Moon, a progressive, was elected in May 2017 after his conservative predecessor Park Geun-hye was impeached and later jailed for corruption. So, he has barely three months left in office. His successor will be elected on March 9 and enter the Blue House – Seoul’s equivalent of the White House – two months later, on May 9.