The devil is in the detail

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The devil is in the detail

The author is a Washington correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.

President Moon Jae-in’s five-day U.S. visit began with “blood brothers” and ended in “economic alliance.” The first official appointment saw Moon deliver flowers to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. The next day, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted a Medal of Honor ceremony for a Korean War veteran, followed by the groundbreaking ceremony for the memorial wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The events all celebrated the blood-ties between Korea and the U.S.

The two presidents had great chemistry. As Biden suggested a photo together at the Medal of Honor ceremony, Moon knelt next to the old veteran in a wheelchair. As Biden had one knee bent, President Moon did the same. The act of gratitude for the sacrifice of the old soldier and the will for a solid Korea-U.S. alliance was recorded. The last appointment was the visit to SK Innovation, a battery supplier for U.S. carmakers.

I wondered if there has ever been a president who advocated the Korea-U.S. alliance more than Moon. As he described it as “the best moment, the best meeting,” a high-level U.S. government official said he was “thrilled.” Good negotiations means balanced giving and taking. Moon’s major accomplishments include Biden’s support for the efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, Washington’s promise to respect the Singapore declaration and prompt appointment of a special envoy to the U.S.

What the U.S. has received includes 44-trillion-won ($39.2 billion) in investment and the reinforcement of the high-tech industry supply network such as semiconductors and car batteries, and Korea’s position leaning toward the U.S. rather than China. America has made realistic gains for economic recovery and jobs.

Korea went “all-in” in a bid to secure Covid-19 vaccines, but it only locked down the supply for its 550,000 troops. Instead, the government set up a plan to create a vaccine hub. It is promoted as a plan to get the chicken instead of the eggs, learning how to fish rather than getting a free fish. But the only thing that’s confirmed is the fact that Samsung Biologics is supposed to get completed Moderna vaccines and bottle them. Other elements to become a hub are still in the MOU stage. MOUs can be broken.

Now the party is over. Moon a received cordial reception, and the two leaders confirmed their mutual fondness toward each other. The real work begins now. We need to be reminded that the devil is in the detail.

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