June 06, 2023

Yoon wants to get tough on North Korea but lacks options to be true hardliner

Inter-Korean economic exchanges ended years ago, leaving few ways to apply pressure beyond more hawkish rhetoric

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol is often described as a North Korea hawk — skeptical of engagement, supportive of sanctions, tough on human rights and staunchly pro-alliance.

But nothing about Yoon’s stated inter-Korean policies thus far demonstrates an interest in pressing the kind of buttons that typify a hawk. Indeed, relations with Pyongyang are already nonexistent enough that it’s difficult to envision any pressure points the new administration could leverage even if it wanted to.