In response to the political turmoil that persisted in Korea, Korea has been making significant changes to its political system with the inauguration of the new president, Moon Jae-In. His office brought forth optimistic prospects for the initiation of another political era as well as skepticism of his seemingly idealistic policies for North Korea.
President Moon Jae-In expressed his desires of re negotiation and direct communication with North Korea in an effort to mitigate the North Korean nuclear conflict. “Every time North Korea commits an additional provocation, the UN Security Council passes another resolution. But when it comes to dialogue, currently there is nothing set,” he said.
The Moon Administration seeks to place renewed emphasis on bilateral negotiations between the two countries before talking about denuclearization. The rationale behind this stance comes from the recognition of the fact that a fundamental solution to the North Korean problem can only come through agreement between the two warring states.
Moon Jae-In eagerly voiced his willingness to go to Pyongyang himself to negotiate if the agreements were made under the “right terms”. He introduces the feasible idea of reopening the Gaesung Industrial Complex in an effort to interconnect both Koreas by a mutually dependent economic model to deter future antagonistic conflicts or war.
Former hardline stances demanding de-nuclearization first before other negotiations have clearly failed. Since the Lee and Park Administrations, North Korea has exponentially increased the size of their nuclear program and arsenals, and have pursued inter-continental ballistic missile development more aggressively than ever before.
President Moon is willing to compromise by taking the middle-ground; whilst maintaining current international sanctions such as the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2270, he wishes to pressure North Korea into taking more peaceful options like bilateral talks.
This may be a plausible approach since North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un, knows that the escalating tension between his regime and the new Trump administration in America might end in the real possibility of war, in which the effects are cataclysmic to his regime. Although China still involves itself in humanitarian transactions with North Korea, China also has been shifting its stance to cut off coal, North korea’s greatest export, from reaching its country. Dandong Chengtai, one of China’s biggest buyers of North Korean coal, reported that it had 600,000 tonnes of North Korean coal that couldn’t enter the country and that a total of 2 million tonnes were abandoned.
Despite the changing circumstances for North Korea that might make Moon’s new approach possible, this stress of negotiations do spark criticism and doubt, especially due to history’s proving of its failure with the Sunshine policy. Some citizens fear that negotiations would never work considering our past communication with North Korea.
Conversely, after years of conservative leadership in Korea, the new president’s liberal stance seems to bring about a different change and a different outlook on the North Korean issue. The practicality of this stance remains dubious yet a refreshing approach to this pervasive issue may just be what Korea needs.