South Korea continues to show its independent streak under the leadership of President Moon Jae-in as top Presidential adviser Moon Chung-in publicly restated Seoul’s call for the US to go back to the UN and ease sanctions against the DPRK – a move that both Asian permanent members of the UN Security Council, China and Russia proposed last year.
According to Moon Chung-in:
“A breakthrough may emerge should the North take bold action and the US partially lift sanctions at the same time. But it is not easy to demand that one of them give ground first”.
The clear implication behind this statement is that Seoul would work (as it has done throughout the process) as a mediator between the US and DPRK in order to lay a framework that could establish the breakthrough needed to convince Washington to relax anti-DPRK sanctions, a move that Kim Jong-in stated was necessary in order for the peace process to progress to the mutual advantage of all parties during his 2019 New Year Address. While Donald Trump responded positively to Kim’s New Year Address, this has not led to the concrete action steps that Seoul clearly wants to see.
Throughout the peace process, South Korea’s role and Moon Jae-in’s specific role in pushing both the DPRK and the US to make necessary compromises in order to usher in a golden era of Korean peace through prosperity that Seoul’s moderate peace minded leader has always sought, has nevertheless been widely under-reported in the international media.
While Kim Jong-un was the first to extend an olive branch to the South, the peace minded, level headed, intelligent and moderate South Korean President Moon Jae-in deserves an equal amount of credit for not just grabbing Kim’s olive branch but for running with it along side his fellow Korean leader. Moon’s rise to power was not an easy one. Since Moon’s election, it was subsequently revealed that in 2012, the far-right Park Geun-hye colluded with the domestic intelligence agencies to rig the Presidential election in her favour. Yet Park’s gross corruption resulted in the largest ever peaceful anti-government demonstrations in Korean history.
Park was eventually impeached and imprisoned which lead to a special election in 2017 which saw the rise of Moon to the Blue House. While Park once wickedly conspired to assassinate the leader of the DPRK, Moon inspired Kim Jong-un to think about building a better and brighter future on a collective and fraternal basis. As Moon ended his predecessor’s policy of hostility towards fellow Koreans, Kim responded in kind and the result has been nothing short of breathtaking.
From North and South Korean soldiers embracing as brothers while laying down their arms in the DMZ (demilitarised zone), to Kim and Moon signing friendship agreements in the Panmunjom peace village and the arrival of a joint Korean team at the Olympic Games and Asian Games – 2018 was a year of supreme success for the Korean people.
Based on the progress made by Kim and Moon, both Korean states are now standing united in opposition to anti-Pyongyang sanctions while both countries look with optimism to the Belt and Road initiative that can help to economically unify Korea on a people-centred, respectful and rational basis. Seoul’s contribution to a new trans-Korean rail system as well as joint projects in Korea spearheaded by neighbouring China and Russia look to positively transform the future for millions of Koreans. Throughout this process, Kim and Moon have weathered many a storm and confronted many challenges with grace and a superior sense of purpose.
Moon Jae-in’s calming leadership continues to represent the antithesis of the melodrama that transpired between Washington and Pyongyang in 2017, while clearly this approach has benefited all sides by offering a sharp contrast to the hostile atmosphere of the recent past. As of early 2019, it is clear that Moon’s administration is wasting no time in its sincere attempts to accelerate the peace process by urging Washington to drop sanctions on the DPRK while working with Pyongyang to continue and reduce historic tensions within Korea.
For these reasons alone, observers should not negate nor underrate the supreme importance of the role that Moon Jae-in continues to play in helping to make the Korean peace process owned, authored and executed by Koreans themselves.