10 years with Kim Jong-un

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10 years with Kim Jong-un

The author is the head of Today & People Teamof the JoongAng Ilbo.

Dec. 17 will mark 10 years since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. I vividly remember his youngest son saluting next to the black Lincoln Continental lorry. Kim Jong-un, who was in his 20s at the time, is busy creating an atmosphere to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his rule. Foreign policy and security experts tipped me at the time, “The next 10 years for the young leader to consolidate his power base will offer a chance for the Korean Peninsula. If we miss those 10 years, we’ll face a crisis. Reunification will be a challenge in his lifetime.”

After a decade has passed, we are still living with Kim Jong-un. Is reunification near? No camp, left or right, can readily say yes.

Celebrating the 10th anniversary of his rule and preparing for the next 50 years, Kim said, “We cannot waste each minute, as precious as gold.” But South Korea is deeply confused over the controversies of the two presidential candidates for the March 9 election.

Kim Jong-un has plans for the future. How about the candidates dreaming of entering the Blue House? When foreign policy and security frames are rapidly changing, what heats up the election are volatile issues like the Daejang-dong development scandal or ordering criminal complaints against the government, not very related to the future of the Korean Peninsula.

Foreign policy and security are like oxygen. Though not visible, they are directly related to people’s lives. If we had read into the structure of subtle changes in the U.S.-China conflict and made a wise plan, the critical shortage of diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) wouldn’t have happened.

Foreign policy and security are areas where the president’s attention, scope of understanding, attitude, philosophy and investment are especially important. Looking at security experts in both presidential candidates’ camps, I cannot dispel the impression that they prioritize expanding their own campaign. Each candidate’s foreign policy and security aides must look back on whether they are missing important things because of internal fights. We still have time.

Inter-Korean and South Korea-Japan relations are very important for the new president, who will come into office next year. In fact, only politicians use diplomacy for votes in South Korea and Japan.

A college student in Seoul still misses a ramen restaurant in Shibuya while an office worker in Tokyo wants to go to a crab restaurant in Seoul. Young Japanese director Yuya Ishii’s new film “You Won’t Believe” is a joint project of Korea and Japan. After a Korean and a Japanese person clash over misunderstanding in the beginning of the movie, one line was repeated: “What’s important is the attitude to understand each other.” As foreign policy and security are conducted by people, let’s go back to the basics.
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