Peaceful coexistence comes firstPresident Moon Jae-in’s willingness to engage with North Korea comes as a breath of fresh air, especially following the failed diplomacy tactic of the two former administrations. It is wise of Moon to condemn North Korea for launching missiles soon after his inauguration, since this will show dialogue will be resumed only on the condition that North Korea stops its reckless provocations. Some compare Moon and former U.S. President Barack Obama, saying that they share similarities. When it comes to security policies, their stances differ: Moon is much more proactive in denuclearizing North Korea.
Obama’s strategic patience mainly concerned waiting for Kim Jong-un regime to give up its nuclear warheads and missiles, while urging China to put pressure on North Korea. Trump’s administration appears to have adopted much of Obama’s policies. What sets aside Moon is that he understands the dilemma faced by Kim Jong-un regime: Both options for reunification and denuclearization serve as a threat against the survival of the regime.
In almost every aspect, South Korea is superior to the North with its twofold population and GDP worth more than 40 times that of the North. To top it off, Global Firepower (GFP) announced that South Korea’s military power is ranked 9th, whereas the North is ranked at 35th. At this rate, North Korea’s decision to build its nuclear capacity seems almost rational. After all, realists say that anarchy is the ordering principle of the international system, so why would the North trust any state? On the flipside, why would Kim and his high-ranking government officials welcome the idea of reunification when, clearly, all circumstances point to the likelihood of the North being dominated by the South?
Thus Moon proposed “peaceful coexistence” with an emphasis on the North’s denuclearization — a smart move that read between the lines of all the major states involved in the debacle. Moon wants to bring back the Sunshine Policy, an effort from 1998 to 2008 to improve relations with North Korea through humanitarian assistance, diplomatic dialogue, cultural exchanges, and increased economic relations.
Although Moon will not abandon the prominent status of the U.S.-South Korea alliance, he will not endorse a complete reliance on the alliance. He is on point for acknowledging that it is for the best that South Korea takes the lead with the United States by its side in dealing with North Korea. In line with his self-determined and self-reliant strategy, he proposed an early recovery of wartime operational control. Indeed, as long as the atmosphere surrounding North Korea is insecure, Kim will pursue his provocative measures in retaliation.
*Student at Kyung Hee University majoring in international relations.