Nobel prizes need to be earned

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Nobel prizes need to be earned


Bae Myung-bok
The author is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

It may have been true that U.S. President Donald Trump arm-twisted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe into nominating him for the Nobel Peace Prize. Many thought Trump was bluffing when he boasted about that two weeks ago, but Japanese press reports suggested otherwise.

Trump mentioned it while he was declaring a national emergency to build the much-contested wall on the border with Mexico. He suddenly said Abe showed him “the most beautiful copy of a letter” he had sent to the people “who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize” while responding to a question about the upcoming summit with North Korea in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Few would put much credence to his claim since Abe has disapproved of Trump’s détente toward North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. He hardly would have recommended Trump for the prize for his contribution to regional peace when polls showed that a majority of Japanese people remain skeptical of Pyongyang’s promise to denuclearize. Some U.S. media even suggested Trump could have mistaken him for South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who once publicly said that Trump deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for easing tension in the region.

According to press reports from Japan, Trump hinted to Abe that he was hoping to get his name on the list for the Nobel Peace Prize following the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in Singapore in June last year. Abe mailed the recommendation to the Nobel Committee last fall and later showed a copy of the letter when he met Trump in person to please the U.S. president. Abe’s action may not be all that surprising, since most Japanese leaders have gained U.S. approval and support since World War II by currying favor with Washington.

The under-the-table wheel and deal would have stemmed from Trump’s egotistical desire for international recognition. There have been talks about the historic U.S.-North Korea summit and inter-Korean summits deserving joint awards amid the dramatic change of mood around the Korean Peninsula in spring last year. But last year’s Nobel Peace Prize went to the human activists who fought for the rights of women in conflict-ridden regions.


U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meet at the start of their summit at the Capella Hotel on the resort island of Sentosa, Singapore, on June 12, 2018. [REUTERS/YONHAP]

Although Trump tries to be cool about it, saying he does not expect to win this year either, he must feel he deserves the award more than his predecessor, Barack Obama, as he gives himself credit for suspending the nuclear and missile programs in North Korea and bringing home hostages as well as war remains. “If not for me, we would now be at war with North Korea!” he tweeted last summer.

The Nobel Committee receives candidate lists for the Peace Prize by February. By December, it had rounded up 219 individuals and 85 organizations as candidates for this year’s award. The committee draws up a short list and goes into evaluation in the spring to select the finalist by late September. Whether he can get his name on the list in October will depend on the result of this week’s second summit talks in Hanoi.

While the first summit in Singapore laid the grounds for peace on the Korean Peninsula, the subsequent talks in Hanoi would add substance to the quintessential denuclearization process.

The goal is to get specific action plans on what Trump and Kim agreed in Singapore: normalizing ties between the United States and North Korea, establishing a permanent peace regime for the two Koreas and drawing a roadmap for complete denuclearization. In order to not let the upcoming summit become another diplomatic showcase, Washington must achieve tangible results. The working-level talks have not revealed anything so far.

Kim — whether we like it or not — has proven to be a shrewd strategist. Will he surrender his nuclear weapons to Trump’s promise of security and economic returns?

Moon nobly said he would be happy to see Trump walk away with the Nobel Peace Prize as long as South Korea can earn peace in return.

If the Hanoi summit helps create a historic turning point for peace in Korea, we also would be happy to applaud Trump and Kim when they jointly walk up to the podium to receive the peace prize in Oslo later this year.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 19, Page 31
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