Realizing a true peace
The author is a professor at the department of political science and international relations, Korea University.
When it began in May 2017, the Moon Jae-in administration vowed to eradicate inequality, unfairness and corrupt practices dating back to the Japanese colonial period and periods of authoritarian rule, and rebuild the country. Policies such as the prosecutorial reform, income-led growth, a nuclear phase-out and real estate market stabilization were presented as key to the crusade.
Three years later, prosecutors who investigated allies of the president, the Cho Kuk family’s corruption scandal, the Blue House’s alleged influence over the Ulsan mayoral election to help Moon’s friend win and Yoon Mee-hyang’s alleged misappropriation of public donations for comfort women victims, were labeled as subjects of reform. Those who defended the suspects were called reformists of the prosecution.
Moon said, “I am confident about my real estate policy,” but he is facing a vicious cycle of strengthening regulations, increasing taxes and skyrocketing home prices. And yet the ruling party does not hesitate to use its super majority to push his policies forward.
The nuclear power industry, despite its world-class technology, was destroyed due to Moon’s bizarre policy to end the use of nuclear energy in Korea while exporting nuclear plants to other countries. Despite the situation, state-run institutes are continuing to push forward the nuclear phase-out policy, although what Korea needs is an ending of the policy.
Shifting policy is the answer to the government’s failure to curb real estate prices. But Moon’s allies abruptly proposed to relocate the capital city, although such a change requires meticulous planning.
The ruling party will be able to win votes if North-U.S. dialogue or inter-Korean relations see progress ahead of the next year’s by-elections and the next presidential election. For them, the humiliating policy to please North Korea is not a losing game.
Now, the administration is quietly abandoning its policy to denuclearize North Korea for the people’s safety and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Moon’s speech on June 25 marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War had no mention of denuclearization. He only stressed the mutual prosperity of the two Koreas.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the power of his nuclear deterrent guarantees the North’s security, but the new unification minister of the South, Lee In-young, said the people’s desire for peace is a stronger military deterrence than are nuclear weapons.
The North is going after the Pakistan model, in which the country did not give up nuclear weapons while improving its relations with the United States. Kim has learned crucial lessons about Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. They both lost hold on power because they had no nuclear deterrence.
In fact, the North made an ambiguous mention of the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” during its negotiation with the United States. It never mentioned the denuclearization pledge in the Sept. 19 Joint Declaration made with the South. Furthermore, dismantling nuclear weapons means Kim will be abandoning the family legacy of nuclear and missile development which continued since his grandfather Kim Il Sung’s rule in the 1960s.
Ahead of the presidential election, U.S. President Donald Trump may try to stage a surprise event, but he would simply hope that the North won’t stage a provocation such as a launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICMB) or another nuclear test. And yet, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last week replied to Congress that the administration’s goal is still complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization (CVID). If Joe Biden becomes the next president, he will be more faithful to the principle of CVID.
Chinese President Xi Jinping is calculating its strategic gain and loss within the framework of U.S.-China relations; he demands that not only the North’s nuclear programs but also the U.S. nuclear umbrella over the South be removed.
The South’s principle was also CVID and actual peace on the Korean Peninsula. But maybe because of Moon’s principle that a cowardly peace is better than a righteous war, the administration has lost its vision. Since 2018, Moon repeatedly stressed that Kim Jong-un has a strong intention to give up nuclear weapons in the global diplomatic arena. He even asked the international community to ease sanctions, despite other countries’ criticism.
Despite the North Korean regime’s threats, violations of inter-Korean agreements and many provocations, Moon said he cannot undo the promise of peace he made to Kim. Although the new unification minister and the new director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS) said they would seek the North’s denuclearization during their confirmation hearings, their top priority is bypassing international sanctions to offer assistance to the North, resuming talks and improving inter-Korean relations.
For the sake of the Korean people, the Moon administration must respect the international sanctions on North Korea to prevent Pyongyang from using its nuclear option and strengthening the combined defense posture of the U.S.-Korea alliance. But the government’s North Korea policy has failed to stimulate denuclearization and, at the same time, weakened the sanctions as well as the U.S.-Korea alliance. A speedy shift of this policy is the only path to realize a true, nuclear-free peace.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.