We were all wrong
That morning, I interviewed foreign policy and security officials and scholars on Clinton’s Korean Peninsula policy. I did ask about Trump’s policy, but both the experts and I talked based on hypotheticals. We were all wrong.
At around 1:45 p.m., Trump secured 244 electoral votes, more than Clinton’s 209. The New York Times, which had at one point predicted an 84 percent chance of a Clinton win, reported that a Trump victory had a 94 percent possibility. I picked up the phone again. The scholars and officials were perplexed. One official, who earlier had assured that “Korea would have a perfect match with a Clinton administration in foreign policy and security,” sighed and said, “We are in big trouble.”
The New York Times and Washington Post, which endorsed Clinton, are also puzzled. The New York Times’ online edition featured complaint letters from readers on Thursday. Dean Baquet, the executive editor, said, “If I have a mea culpa for journalists and journalism, it’s that we’ve got to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people.” It was a letter of apology.
Media outlets are not the only ones who need to write a letter of apology. Foreign policy and security authorities who failed to prepare for a Trump presidency are not free from criticism. One foreign affairs ministry official said in an unofficial briefing on Sunday that there had been 106 contacts with Trump and Republicans. They did their share of effort, but it was not enough. Foreign affairs officials believe they failed to penetrate the core of the Trump camp.
Through late Wednesday, officials were concerned that President-elect Trump and Park Geun-hye had not set up a telephone conversation. Thankfully, the Blue House announced that Park spoke to Trump for 10 minutes Thursday morning. But Tokyo has already arranged a meeting between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Tokyo, too, thought Clinton’s chance of victory was over 90 percent, but at the same time, they quietly and intensely contacted key figures, including Michael Flynn, a retired United States Army lieutenant general who served as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Even as Korea is experiencing a leadership vacuum, the foreign policy and security officials should have acted more smartly. Journalists, the media, and government authorities all need to write a letter of apology to prepare for the new era of Donald Trump.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 11, Page 29
*The author is a political news reporter for the JoongAng Ilbo.