What Moon should have said“I hope to see you in Pyongyang in the near future,” Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, told South Korean President Moon Jae-in during a luncheon on Saturday. “I hope for you, the president, to play a leading role in opening a new chapter for unification.” Her language was like that of an adult guiding a child.
Unification as pictured by Kim Jong-un and Kim Yo-jong is abandoning our national flag and identity of the Republic of Korea. At the minimum, their unification means that the South must respect the impoverished and inhumane Communist regime of the North, ruled by the Kim family and based on the spirit of “Koreans only.”
Kim’s invitation demonstrates the arrogance of a country that has mastered nuclear arms technology. The siblings seem to be different from their father, who used to resort to provocations using conventional weapons.
No South Korean will want his or her president to play the leading role in the unification proposed by Kim Yo-jong. Voters do not want a president who is submissive to the nuclear-armed North and can be bossed around by the Kim family.
Moon responded to Kim Jong-un’s invitation with, “Let’s create the environment to make that happen.” It was an ambiguous answer. Instead of giving the impression that he was being careful, it gave the impression that he was not confident and trying to wait and see how things turn out.
Moon also asked the North to “more actively seek dialogue with the United States.” It was a passive attitude suggesting that we have no leading role. Were those remarks truly his best answers?
As the world was watching closely, Moon should have said, “Kim must make a bold decision to abandon his nuclear weapons for the sake of the Korean people. The first target of North Korea’s nuclear weapons is the South, not the United States or Japan. I want to go to Pyongyang as soon as possible to discuss this issue.”
Moon should have actively accepted the proposal for a summit while making clear that denuclearization is the agenda. The message should clearly say that the North’s nuclear threat is to the South — not to the United States — and that is the first reason for Kim to give up his weapons program.
From the beginning, the nuclear issue was not an issue of another country but ours. The general sentiment of the public and the truth are contained in the suggested message. The truth is more terrifying than an atomic bomb. Moon should have acted more energetically and creatively during the luncheon. He should have not made an ambiguous proposal in a lukewarm attitude for North-U.S. dialogue — whether the message was directed at Pyongyang or Washington.
For the inter-Korean summit to take place, the two Koreas must have discussions in advance to set their agendas, and no one could have been a more powerful messenger than Kim Yo-jong. The luncheon between Moon and Kim — which skirted the nuclear issue — is therefore heartbreaking.
Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok; his national security chief, Chung Eui-yong; National Intelligence Service Director Suh Hoon; and Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon should be held accountable. They probably worried that Kim Yo-jong would show hostility and the discussion of an inter-Korean summit would end immediately if they raised the issue.
But it would be even harder for the South to bring up the nuclear issue in front of Kim Jong-un if they could not talk about it in front of Kim Yo-jong. Unless Moon has the guts to tell Kim Jong-un to give up his weapons, it is better for him not to go to Pyongyang.
The biggest reason for Kim to invite Moon to Pyongyang is to delay the joint military drills between South Korea and the United States, which are scheduled to resume immediately after the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The drills were already postponed once, but North Korea wants to postpone them again and eventually terminate them.
Kim Jong-un wants distrust and conflict between Seoul and Washington to deepen so that South Korea will fiercely oppose a U.S. military option against North Korea. What will be the next step for Moon and the Blue House? They will probably accept the summit proposal, request Washington to delay the joint exercises and have them cancel any plan of a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.
I hope my prediction is wrong. If this pattern is repeated, North Korea will complete the structure of using South Korea as its shield for U.S. attacks. Then the South Korea-U.S. alliance will be dismantled.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 12, Page 30
*The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.