Fri, May 19, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Seoul seeks peace on the peninsula

By Parris Chang 張旭成

In the past few months, North Korea has turned into the world’s most volatile powder keg: It could blow any moment, and as such, the world’s eyes are trained closely on the hermit nation.

Due to the nuclear threat posed by North Korea, South Korea has reached an agreement with the US to deploy its Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system on South Korean soil.

However, the Chinese government reacted badly, imposing a ban on, and instigating a boycott of, South Korean goods, which has caused a strong backlash among the South Korean public.

Further, the impeachment of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye following a corruption scandal and the leaking of state secrets has destabilized the political situation in South Korea.

To deter Pyongyang from carrying out a sixth nuclear test, in addition to demanding that China exerts pressure on its ally, Washington has dispatched a naval task force to South Korean waters and is amassing forces in the region.

The White House has also repeatedly said that it is prepared to use military force against North Korea.

Anxious not to appear weak, Pyongyang responded by launching a campaign of deterrence through its media and military. In a sign of the degree of hostility between the two Koreas, the North last month staged a massive live-fire drill off its coast with 300 heavy artillery guns to mark the 85th anniversary of the founding of its army.

However, the world might be at a turning point. Following the election of South Korean President Moon Jae-in last week, the nation has undergone a transition of political power, with the Democratic Party now firmly installed in the Blue House.

With public opinion behind him, Moon is seeking to turn the political situation on the Korean Peninsula on its head.

Moon’s administration will seek to substantially improve relations between the two Koreas by reviving the “Sunshine Policy” of direct engagement with North Korea that was pursued by former South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. Kim and Roh visited Pyongyang and held meetings with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Through his efforts to warm relations with Pyongyang, Kim Dae-jung successfully reduced the tension on the peninsula and was subsequently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Despite this, South Korean media regularly mocks Kim Dae-jung, saying that he used US$500 million to “buy” his award; a dig at him giving the North a US$500 million “gift” in exchange for being allowed to visit Pyongyang and hold a summit with Kim Jong-il.

Moon served as Roh’s chief of staff, accompanying him on his visit to North Korea and meeting with Kim Jong-il.

During Roh’s presidency, Moon promoted the Kaesong joint industrial region and encouraged South Korean businesses to establish branches and invest there.

In 2002, the US discovered that North Korea had been secretly developing nuclear weapons in violation of international treaties.

After several unsuccessful attempts by then-US president George W. Bush to persuade then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) to rein in its ally, Bush in February 2003 issued an ultimatum to Jiang: “If we can’t reach a diplomatic solution, then I’ll have to consider launching a military strike.”

Was this simply bluff and bluster from the Bush administration?

Roh quickly dispatched his minister of foreign affairs to Washington to declare South Korea’s opposition to any military action against North Korea.

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