BestsellerMagazine.com - CATEGORY Latest news: TITLE
SEOUL, South Korea—Last summer, South Korea’s new president, only two months into his term, announced sweeping new goals—including the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, inter-Korean industrial economic zones and traffic networks that he described as a“New Korean Peninsula Economic Map,” and a peace treaty. “The five-year plans for state affairs announced today will be the blueprint and compass for a new Korea,” Moon said.
Few people outside of the country took much notice—Americans have been too busy debating whether their own president, Donald Trump, deserves credit for bringing North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un to the table. Yet this year, events have kept falling into place with an eerie sense of predestination.
Story Continued Below
Diplomacy is rarely so neat. It takes planning—and South Korea’s Moon Jae-in has been preparing for this moment for his entire life. It’s not Trump or Kim who should be lauded for setting the conditions for peace in Korea—it’s Moon.
The image was stunning: Moon, the son of North Korean refugees, beaming at the grandson of the North Korean founder, Kim Il-sung, who created the conditions that forced his parents to flee their village for a refugee camp to the south. The stage-managed moment was also not without a touch of theatrical flair. Each detail of the April 27 inter-Korean summit was hammered out in advance to make Kim feel comfortable on his foray across the demarcation line, hand in hand, with Moon.
Many steps brought the 65-year-old South Korean president to this juncture. He came of age during a military dictatorship that began when the father of his immediate predecessor seized power in a 1961 coup. As a young man, he worked as a human rights attorney and helped found the left-leaning national newspaper Hankyoreh. After years as a subaltern in the country’s liberal Democratic party, he swept to power in a May 2017 election to replace his conservative predecessor, Park Geun-hye, after her impeachment on corruption charges.
South Koreans compare him with a past leader from his party, President Kim Dae-jung, whose “sunshine policy” of increasing contact with the North and a groundbreaking 2000 inter-Korean summit in Pyongyang garnered him the Nobel Peace Prize later the same year. A second summit between the two sitting Korean leaders followed in 2007 with Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il, and South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. As the South Korean leader’s chief presidential secretary, Moon was one of the organizers.
Many conservative South Koreans deem the sunshine policy a failure. North Korea’s nuclear and missile testing programs have only grown stronger since the two previous summits. Worse, some experts believe the research has been funded in part by a large payment made to North Korea in advance of the 2000 summit, the extent of which only became known later. A South Korean investigation into a $500 million transfer to North Korea made by Hyundai found that possibly as much as a quarter of it was government money, while the rest was a business investment.
But Moon is clearly undaunted by the doubts. Soon after moving into the Blue House, South Korea’s presidential residence, he began cultivating the other members of the former six-party talks to put a halt to North Korea’s nuclear program: the two Koreas, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.
The Oval Office was among his first stops. He made an official state visit in June, a month after winning the South Korean presidency. His relationship with Trump appeared to nosedive in September when the U.S. president accused him of “appeasement” for favoring dialogue with the North. Two months later, Trump was posing for photographs by his side in Seoul, South Korea’s kinetic capital of 10 million.
Then in a New Year’s phone call, a visibly relieved Moon convinced the U.S. president to shorten the annual joint military exercises between the two countries—which North Korea habitually views as a provocation—from two months to one. “I believe it would greatly help ensure the success of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games if you could express an intention to delay joint South Korea-U.S. military exercises during the Olympics,” he told Trump, who agreed to postpone the drills until April 1.
In his next deft diplomatic move, Moon seized upon the symbolism of the Olympics to pry open negotiations with his country’s bellicose neighbor. His administration spent $3 million to subsidize North Korea’s participation at the Winter Games, where the reclusive state sent athletes, cheerleaders and even Kim’s sister. This wasn’t mere window dressing, but an opportunity for soft diplomacy.
Moon took charge of the diplomatic endeavors in the Olympic corridors by meeting with high-level delegations from the U.S., Japan, North Korea and others. At the Opening Ceremony, Kim’s younger sister personally handed him a letter from her brother inviting him to Pyongyang. Although the inter-Korean summit was later held at Panmunjom, the “truce village” along the border, the South Korean president immediately responded to this invitation by sending an envoy to the North Korean capital. Chung Eui-Yong, the South’s national security adviser, followed up his trip to the North with a dash to Washington to persuade Trump to meet face-to-face with Kim. In a huge favor to Moon, the White House allowed Chung to brief reporters about Trump’s willingness to attend an unprecedented summit with North Korea.
As he emerged from the Oval Office, Chung said he had told the U.S. president how much Kim had “stressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.” Although Moon had set the ball rolling with his Olympics diplomacy, Chung was careful to credit the American president with a leading role. “Along with President Trump, we are optimistic about continuing a diplomatic process to test the possibility of a peaceful resolution,” he said. In a possible attempt to reassure the foreign policy hawks on North Korea, he said his country stood firm with the United States “in insisting that we not repeat the mistakes of the past and that the pressure will continue until North Korea matches its words with concrete actions.”
During Chung’s perambulations from Pyongyang to Washington in the first week of March, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a group of international journalists meeting in Seoul, “Although there were no direct contacts between the United States and North Korean delegations on the sidelines of the Olympics, we were able to confirm through our discussions with each the willingness of both sides to engage directly.”
Kang credited Trump’s toughness on North Korea with helping to bring Kim to the negotiation table.She told the journalists on March 5 that if North Korea changed course on the nuclear issue, the United States and South Korea “stand ready to offer it a brighter, more prosperous future,” language that has since been echoed by Trump.
By the end of the week, Kang would be packing her bags to visit Washington to pave the way for what may become the first U.S.-North Korea summit.
Shortly after the announcement, Kim left North Korea on a slow-moving train to Beijing. Some media reports portrayed this as a bold, new chapter in his leadership. You might equally compare it with a teenager coming home from college for spring break: Although he is used to a degree of autonomy, he still needs to ask to borrow the car.
It is no exaggeration to say that Kim’s regime couldn’t exist without the support of China. Over the years, it has sold North Korea such life essentials as fuel, rice and textiles, while buying its coal, iron ore and finished clothing.
China has been helping to construct this diplomatic puzzle that South Korea began piecing together late last year. The work has proceeded in a pattern of bilateral meetings. In part, this is due to pragmatism. On the campaign trail, candidate Trump said repeatedly that as president he would engage in bilateral talks. He portrayed America as getting a raw deal in multilateral negotiations, particularly on trade. Taking the piecemeal approach has also allowed Moon and his envoys to play to the egos of both Trump and Kim.
An annual journalism conference in Seoul during the first week of March, which I attended as the incoming president of the Society of Professional Journalists, provided a glimpse into the country’s new foreign policy stance. The title of this year’s conference—the first since Moon took office—was ripped straight from the pages of his policy agenda: Role of Press for Denuclearization of Korean Peninsula and World Peace. The annual event is hosted by the Journalists Association of Korea and co-sponsored by the country’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among other organizations.
More than 60 international journalists gathered a few days after the closing ceremony of the Olympics. A colleague and I were the only Americans. Several countries in the region sent three participants each, including China, Indonesia, Mongolia and Vietnam. Yet some key Pacific Rim countries weren’t represented, such as Canada, Australia, and most notably, Japan, which at the nearest point is some 130 miles off the Korean peninsula.
We began with an opening day forum about denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a term that wasn’t any more clearly defined than it has been in subsequent media coverage. Does Kim intend to destroy all the nuclear weapons and long-range missiles that his country has spent hundreds of millions of dollars creating? Only South Africa has ever done that, although some Eastern European countries eliminated nuclear arsenals they inherited from the breakup of the Soviet Union.
Even some of the local staff we encountered during the week doubted that Kim would take the ultimate step in denuclearization. “He wants to keep his regime,” said Park Hyun-sook, a tireless freelance tour guide, who goes by the name “Honey” in English. “He will never give up the nuclear weapons, but he also will not attack. I think the nuclear is only for threatening, to get favors at the negotiation table.”
North Korea is widely considered the most militarized country on the planet. It maintains an army of 1.1 million by keeping a large portion of its population in uniform for a decade or more. Young men are required to serve for 10 years beginning at 17, and some are pushed to remain in uniform until they reach 30.
However, Kim may have calculated that long-range missiles and sophisticated nuclear devices aren’t necessary to preserve his regime. South Koreans long ago became an effective human shield to thwart any preemptive military action against the North.
Seoul is only as far from the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, as Baltimore is from Washington. “You are sitting in the heavy target,” South Korean journalist Choi Woosuk Kenneth told the recent forum in South Korea’s capital. “This is the place where North Korea will strike first.” Referring to the annual joint military drills by the U.S. and South Korea, at the time less than a month away, he said, “We’re preparing for a potential invasion from the North, not the other way around.”
Choi, the editor of the future planning news desk at the conservative daily newspaper Chosun Ilbo, asked the audience why they thought South Korea hadn’t pursued a nuclear arms program of its own. One of the journalists piped up, “Because of America!”
“It’s not America alone,” Choi responded. “The global community would shun us. And if we cannot trade, we cannot survive.”
Kim may be coming around to the same conclusion. In 2016, China bought more than 85 percent of North Korea’s estimated $3 billion in exports and sold 90 percent of the $4 billion of goods imported by its southern neighbor, with which it shares an 880-mile land border.
Yet experts say that China recently began enforcing U.N. sanctions, driving the isolated state’s remaining trade into the shadows. The U.N. accuses North Korea of using false paperwork and ship-to-ship cargo transfers at sea to get around the sanctions. In March, the U.N. Security Council blacklisted shipping companies—including 12 based in North Korea, three in Hong Kong and two in mainland China—for helping the North to continue the coal exports and oil imports. The net is tightening.
Along with a peace treaty, Kim no doubt wants relief from the sanctions, and ultimately, normalized relations with the South and other potential trading partners. Yet theDemocratic People’s Republic of Korea, his country’s official name, is anything but a normal country. It is among the worst state actors in terms of human rights, press freedom and economic development. A 400-page U.N. report describes decades of official murder, torture and rape in North Korea;upwards of 100,000 North Koreans are held in conditions akin to Nazi concentration camps. Witnesses quoted in the report describe prisoners who were forced to burn corpses, and the murder of newborns to repatriated women who had attempted to defect through China, because the prison guards assumed the babies were mixed-race Chinese.
Even before the stiffer sanctions, satellite images showed the DMZ slashing across the peninsula like a scar from an old wound, leaving the North in darkness after sunset. By contrast, the South is lit up like a candle at night. A technology-fueled economic boom, driven by global brands like Samsung and Hyundai, has made South Koreans rich in a single generation. The country ranks 33rd in the world in terms of income per person, better off than Spain and Italy. It has an average annual income around $40,000, a roughly 20-fold increase from $2,000 in 1980. Now they have cars, cell phones and nice apartments with all the modern amenities. And here comes the beggar from the North.
So far, the costs are real, but contained. The $3 million spent on the North Korean trip to the Olympics was largely symbolic. South Korea makes substantial outlays to house, care for and integrate into their society the more than 1,000 defectors who succeed in reaching the South each year. They receive a mandatory three-month reeducation process and $6,450 a year to subsidize living costs. Choi’s presentation called attention to the discovery of an 11-inch tapeworm in a North Korean soldier who had sprinted across the DMZ amid a hail of bullets in November as evidence that some defectors require major medical attention.
“There’s a saying in Korea, if there’s a fight between a beggar on the street and a gentleman, who do you think is going to win?” Choi asked the audience rhetorically. “The beggar. Why? Not only because he’s more desperate, but because he’s going to put all the dirt onto the gentleman’s clothes, so the gentleman is going to run away.”
South Korea must walk a narrow path between its two powerful neighbors to the north, China and Russia, and its traditional allies like the U.S. and Japan. I got a small taste of this during the conference, which served as a kind of microcosm of the careful coalition diplomacy Moon has been juggling for the past year. The conference organizers divided participants into separate groups during site visits, and rotated honors, such as the toasts and press interviews, among journalists from different countries.
Occasionally, our Korean hosts had to scramble to preserve harmony. When I became embroiled in an exchange with the two young Russian journalists, who were skeptical that their country was behind the social media “bots” aimed at influencing American political opinions, a Korean staffer materialized by my side. I had to greet the local dignitary hosting our lunch. I protested that we were already in the middle of lunch and I didn’t want to leave the table. A few moments later, I was bowing and exchanging cards with a man in a suit.
Russia has a scant 11-mile land border with North Korea, along the Tumen River, with a single 1950’s-era rail bridge near Vladivostok, dubbed the “friendship bridge.” Although the two countries were major trading partners in the 1970s and ‘80s, since the fall of the Berlin Wall, China has replaced it as North Korea’s lifeline. Recently, however, Russia expressed interest in building a vehicle bridge across the river so that its trucks wouldn’t need to pass through China to reach North Korea.
Russia’s trade with South Korea totals around $15 billion, but Moon has said he’d like to expand that rapidly. He met with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok in September. The South Korean president hopes to establish a free trade agreement with Russia and other members of the Eurasian Economic Union.
“Moon’s main motivation for closer ties with Russia is focused on North Korea,” said Artyom Lukin, an associate professor of international relations at the Far Eastern Federal University in Vladivostok, where he attended the forum. “Seoul hopes that strong links with Russia will eventually help engage North Korea in the process of economic integration and opening up, including through trilateral (South-Russia-North) projects.”
China is South Korea’s largest trading partner, and by a wide margin. It buys more than a quarter of South Korea’s $550 billion in exports and sells more than one-fifth of its $450 billion in imports. U.S. trade in both directions is almost exactly half the size.
China has also become a major property developer in the south. Landing International Development, a Chinese real estate development company that trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange, recently cut the ribbon on Jeju Shinhwa World, a 27-million-square-foot resort complex on Jeju, a beach resort island off Sourth Korea’s southern coast, with 2,000 luxury hotel rooms, condominiums and shops, including the island’s largest food and beverage complex. It also boasts a convention center, theme park and casino. Future planned additions include a waterpark and a Four Seasons Resort & Spa.
Many of the visitors will likely be Chinese. In recent years, Jeju’s provincial government has encouraged Chinese real estate investment with liberal visa policies and permanent resident status for condominium owners. Jeju’s airport, the country’s second-largest, is a regional hub with direct flights to Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai and many other Chinese cities.
With greater rail and road links between the two Koreas, China might even extend the Belt and Road Initiative—its Goliath effort to unite Eurasia and East Africa in a vast transportation network of its own creation, also known as “One Belt, One Road”—as far down as Jeju.
At our final dinner , the staff passed around glossy printed copies of a statement. The polished young South Korean woman who had been serving as our translator read it from the podium. The audience applauded. With our applause, she said, we had approved the declaration.
Some of us became agitated. I skimmed the handout to discern how our “approval” might be construed.
It began by saying that inter-Korean reconciliation had become an “irreversible trend of our time” and expressing hope that “spring comes heralding rapprochement and peace on the Korean Peninsula.” It continued by calling on members of the former six-party talks—the United States, China, Japan and Russia—to join the “path toward security and peace on the Korean Peninsula.” The last paragraph troubled me. We were promising to contribute to peace on the Korean peninsula “through articles and other activities after returning home.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed some of the journalists in a huddle. The translator returned to the stage to announce that they were striking the final paragraph, which had been added by mistake.
It’s tempting to see this as simply a cultural misunderstanding. The Journalist Association of Korea considers working toward the peaceful reunification of the peninsula among its organizational goals. An American journalist group would never pursue a political goal. But the stakes are larger. Moon is fast-tracking his agenda amid the usual cloud of skepticism because North Korea has promised to end its nuclear program before, only to reverse course. He and his supporters know that Kim could very well be shooting off rockets again if the negotiations don’t go his way, so they don’t want to overlook any potentially useful pieces of the puzzle.
And who knows, perhaps this time really is different, as the country North Korea cannot live without now has a clear economic interest at heart. Yet it worries me to watch the euphoria over “peace” blot out the memory of the ongoing crimes that have been exposed in North Korea. Throughout my stay, I was reminded of my flight over the North Pole to reach Seoul. Although the calendar skipped ahead a full day, the sun kept skimming above and below the horizon, neither dark nor day.> Share on Facebook > Share on Twitter
>This article tagged under:>Show Comments
BestsellerMagazine.com, Site News current daily serving News today and the latest news about politics until News lifestyle and sport.
Source : https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/05/22/moon-trump-kim-jong-un-korea-218413