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Moon 'solemn' about failures, hopes new president will engage with North Korea

By Ashley Williams
Moon 'solemn' about failures, hopes new president will engage with North Korea
Outgoing South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks Monday in front of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul as he leaves the presidential office for the last time as South Korea's leader. Photo by Yonhap

May 9 (UPI) -- In his final speech before leaving office, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday he's proud of the work his administration did in engaging with North Korea -- particularly on denuclearization -- and that he hopes that continues under President Yoon Suk-yeol.

Moon, who assumed the presidency in 2017, delivered his farewell address in a nationally televised speech.

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"Peace is the condition for our survival and prosperity," he said. "I heartily hope that the efforts to resume dialogue between South and North Korea and establish denuclearization and peace continue with the resumption of dialogue between the South and the North."

Moon called for Seoul and Pyongyang to resume peaceful dialogue after the more conservative Yoon moves into the Blue House on Tuesday. Yoon was elected in March after a tight race against Lee Jae-myung, a liberal politician who's more similar to Moon ideologically.

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Although Moon was credited by some with furthering relations with the North during his tenure -- which included rare unity during the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea -- he was criticized on other fronts, including the economy and COVID-19. For many younger voters, soaring real estate prices that Moon never managed to control was a top issue on Election Day.

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"I am solemn about how much our government has lived up to. But even if our government does not achieve it, the people's desire for a 'country-like' country will never stop," Moon added, according to the Herald. "The desires of the candle lights will continue to bloom as our hopes and energy."

While Moon prioritized peace on the Korean Peninsula during his term -- which included three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un -- tensions heightened during the second summit between the United States and the North. Moon was also criticized by some, including Yoon, as being subservient to Kim.

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In his remarks Monday, Moon acknowledged his role as a leader who transformed a "crisis of war" on the Korean Peninsula in 2017 to a "phase of dialogue," which raised hopse for peace.

The president of South Korea serves for a single five-year term and is not allowed to run for re-election. Upon his landslide election five years ago, Moon promised to improve the South Korean economy and reform the country's powerful business conglomerates.

Punctuating Moon's departure is the fact that Pyongyang has carried out several missile tests this year and some fear that the North may be planning to test a nuclear weapon in the near future.

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As a conservative politician, Yoon is expected by some to take a more hard-line approach to the North -- which in the past has often meant no dialogue and icy rhetoric.

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