PN's Voice 114

Peace Network Korea
PN's Voice 114, 11.05.2017
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PN's Voice No. 114,  11. 05. 2017 
Small steps, Road to peace

South Korea’s New President – Moon Jae-In

After months of uncertainty in the fallout of the chaotic end of the Park Geun-Hye administration which ultimately lead to her impeachment, South Korea has been looking forward to the new dawn that a new president provides. That new start comes in the form of Moon Jae-In. Moon was elected the 19th president of South Korea on May 9 after, beating off 4 other major party rivals with a majority of 41.1%. After a decade of conservative rule, progressive Moon of the Democratic Party, represents a break from the past and a breath of fresh air particularly vis-à-vis North Korea. Moon, the son of refugees from North Korea, has a policy of engagement and dialogue with the North, breaking from his predecessor’s policy of not engaging with Pyongyang at all, with a reliance on pressure and sanctions.

Moon’s inauguration ceremony came the day after the election on May 10th, where he made a speech about his willingness to improve relations with North Korea, re-negotiate the deployment of THAAD with US and China. President Moon immediately jumped into action in his new role and started conducting state business. U.S. President Trump was the first world leader to offer his congratulations to the newly elected president on his first day in office. The two leaders spoke for around 30 minutes, in which time Moon told Trump that "The (US-South Korean) alliance has been the core of Korea's diplomacy and security and it will continue to be." Moon continued on to tell Trump that he appreciates that the U.S. has put the North Korea issue on the top of its security agenda list. Trump responded by saying that “Korea is a not just good ally but great ally.”

Moon has already announced that his first state visit will be to the U.S., and has also expressed his intention to visit Tokyo, Beijing and even Pyongyang, if the conditions are right. Despite Trump and Moon’s mutual warm words and welcoming tone, the two are likely to be faced with tough negotiations on key issues such as how best to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and the deployment of THAAD. Additionally, Moon has often spoken of the need for South Korea to “take the lead” on Korean Peninsula issues, instead of being a “spectator”; how this affects the U.S.-South Korean alliance remains to be seen.

Moon will also have his work cut out not only in dealing with China, who are currently at logger heads with Seoul over the deployment of THAAD, but also Abe’s Japan. Moon has been a vocal opponent of the so-called ‘Comfort Women’ Deal that was struck between Seoul and Tokyo at the end of 2015. Thousands of South Korean girls and women were forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military; the aforementioned deal was struck to try and resolve this tricky historical issue, but was widely criticized by victims and citizens alike. The Japanese government has raised the issue again recently and it is upset that a statue commemorating the ‘Comfort Women’, situated directly outside the Japanese embassy in central Seoul, has not only not been removed, but an additional second statue is being proposed in Busan.
Moon has a lot of work ahead of him, but the progressive former human rights lawyer’s determination to make progress on the North Korean security and nuclear issues through talks is of particular interest and offers an alternative approach to that of the last 2 administrations. If he can get Washington to follow his lead, we may begin to see an era of brighter inter-Korean relations in the near future.

Episode 3 of Peace Network’s English Podcast

Click the link below to access Peace Network’s podcast channel. This third episode focuses on the new South Korean President Moon Jae-In.
Source : Peace Network's Podcast

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