It is not too early to predict one sure winner of South Korea's presidential election next week: North Korea. President Lee Myung-bak's hardline approach to Pyongyang is going away, no matter who replaces him.
The question is: Just how soft will Seoul go?
Not even Pyongyang's successful launch of a long-range rocket Wednesday has changed the determination of both candidates to pursue policies of engagement, aid and reconciliation.
This matters because whoever wins on Dec. 19 will set the initial tone for new North Korea policy not just in Seoul but in Washington, Beijing and Tokyo. Those countries are undergoing political changes and have been waiting for a new South Korean leader before making any big decisions on North Korea policy.