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  • Author: David Straub
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: Shortly before his election as South Korea’s president in May 2017, candidate Moon Jaein issued his most detailed North Korea policy statement. As president, he declared, he would “inherit” the engagement-based, inducements-oriented Sunshine Policy approach of Korea’s only other progressive presidents, Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003) and Roh Moohyun (2003-2008)1. Moon judged the North Korea policies of his immediate predecessors a failure; Presidents Lee Myung-bak (2008-2013) and Park Geun-hye (2013-2017), both conservatives, had disagreed with key aspects of the Sunshine Policy and suspended the major inter-Korean projects undertaken by Kim and Roh. Moon’s emphasis on incentives to Pyongyang contrasted with United Nations Security Council resolutions adopted during the preceding decade; far from offering inducements, the UNSC had imposed increasingly stringent sanctions on the regime in response to its accelerating pursuit of a full-fledged nuclear weapons capability. Moon also struck quite a different tone than the new Trump administration in Washington, which had only recently concluded a North Korea policy review and characterized its approach as one of “maximum pressure and engagement. This chapter assesses Moon’s North Korea policy, its implementation during his initial year in office, and its prospects under difficult circumstances. It begins by reviewing the Sunshine Policy concept, its practice by previous progressive governments, and the significantly different approach of South Korea’s succeeding conservative administrations. It then argues that Moon and many progressives continue to believe in the basic Sunshine Policy approach, even though, unlike when the policy was first formulated, North Korea now already has a limited nuclear weapons capability and may soon be able to credibly threaten the United States homeland with nuclear attack. It reviews how Moon, as president, has attempted to salvage the policy and how North Korea and other concerned countries have responded. The chapter concludes by considering the prospects for Moon’s North Korea policy and offering recommendations to modify it to maximize the interests of both the ROK and the international community as a whole.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Governance, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, North Korea, Korea
  • Publication Date: 08-2018
  • Content Type: Special Report
  • Institution: Korea Economic Institute of America (KEI)
  • Abstract: During his first year as president, Moon Jae-in faced a challenging strategic environment and divergent advice on how to manage it. He could cater to his progressive base and act in accord with his political lineage by renewing the Sunshine Policy toward North Korea. Alternatively, he could strive for consensus at home by reconciling the differences with conservatives in foreign policy. In diplomacy with the great powers, he also had important choices to make. He could double down on the U.S. alliance or, going further, he could agree to trilateralism with Japan. Yet, he also could be tempted by the option of balancing dependence on the United States with a closer relationship with China. Impacting all of his choices was the question of how Kim Jong-un would focus in 2018, shifting from provocations aimed at military leverage to diplomacy linked to his outlook on Moon’s policies. In the following five chapters authors explore each of these options. This introduction reviews some of their findings and points to linkages among them as part of an overall assessment of how Moon has navigated among the choices he was facing. The following chapters set forth the options that Moon Jae-in has before him. Chapter 1 by David Straub seeks to grasp the appeal of a renewed Sunshine Policy to Moon, while spelling out the implications of taking that route, warning of a breach in trust with the United States if not a temporary welcome from Donald Trump eager for a Nobel Peace Prize. Leif Eric-Easley’s analysis in Chapter 2 assesses the prospects of Moon doubling down on the ROK alliance with the United States and argues that, so far, trust between allies has been sustained, including in 2018 as diplomacy intensified with summitry on the agenda. In Chapter 3 John Delury examines the domestic political environment, pointing to the impact of the Candlelight movement, which offers opportunities for Moon as well as constraints on policies he might adopt. Chung Jae Ho in Chapter 4 explores Sino-ROK relations and the prospects of Moon drawing closer to China with consequences for relations with the United States. A fifth chapter by Sheila Smith focuses on Japan-ROK relations, newly strained by different approaches to diplomacy with Kim Jong-un. Each chapter views Moon’s policies and proclivities in the context of the dynamics of bilateral ties, while following closely what has been happening to those ties during the tumultuous course of Moon’s first year in office, notably in the first third of 2018 as diplomacy intensified.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Government, Politics
  • Political Geography: Asia, South Korea, Korea