In case you thought all was going well on the Korean peninsula...

opinion November 22, 2018 01:00

By Keenan Fagan

These days, all looks to be going well on the Korean peninsula. Guard posts at the Demilitarised Zone are being destroyed.

Southern delegations and inspectors are going to the North to reopen offices and restore railways. Gifts of mushrooms and tangerines are being exchanged. Images of the smiling North and South Korean leaders fill the news. Speaking the same language, President Moon Jae-in vouches to world leaders that Kim Jong-un will keep his word to him and denuclearise, thus ushering in a new period of Korean peace and prosperity. 

And now the family bond between North and South has been strengthened as Supreme Leader Kim’s gift of Gomi and Songgang, a couple of Pungsang dogs from the North, have given birth to puppies at Park’s official residence, the Blue House. With these familial ties, how long can it possibly be before the Korean people are again united? 

This question hangs heavy in the air for South Koreans who have not been lulled into dreams of peace by this temporary halt to hostilities. Yes, President Moon has achieved his foremost objective of preventing war in Korea with an unpredictable American president of “fire and fury” in the White House. 

Yes, the Korean people should be rightfully reunited with the divisions of the Cold War mended. Yes, a united Korea should someday soon be able to take a leading seat in the community of nations. We have all worked hard for that. And yes, South Korea should be the big brother in ushering the North into this community. Moon seems intent on portraying that he is the gracious and wiser elder in this.

But while his administration acts on a portrayed dream of diplomatic normalisation and reunification, the Northern leaders merely look on, smiling. They are pleased to let South Korea and the United States portray what they will, while they strengthen their military and diplomatic positions. Moon and Trump have relieved them of the fear of war and a quick end to their rule, or exile in a northern cave while their own tortured people seek them out for crimes against North Korean humanity. 

Moon’s diplomatic efforts are collapsing a sanctions regime and thus propping up a tyrannical regime. And the Northern regime is intent on continuing clandestine development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes in hidden mountain redoubts. These have now been exposed by David Sanger and William Broad in the New York Times. They lie less than 100 kilometres from the DMZ.

Yet the Blue House defended the North’s bases as “nothing new” (the Korea Herald, November 14). In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom said, “North Korea has never made promises to shut down the missile bases, nor has it signed any agreement that obligates the North to shut down the bases.” This calls into question Moon’s diplomatic efforts on behalf of Kim Jong-un’s word. 

Questions arise from this. Why should there be peaceful normalcy while the North continues to develop an arsenal aimed at the heart of South Korean democracy? And what is Moon saying to the Northern leaders about this? And why are we hearing little on this count? And why does the South Korean government continue to vouch for and give to the North while it continues to develop a nuclear missile capacity to destroy South Korea at a later date? And why isn’t the Moon administration frank in telling the South Korean people and the world about what the North is not doing, namely not denuclearising, nor making concrete moves toward peace? 

These are questions that South Korean journalists should be asking, on behalf of citizens, to an administration that should be prepared to answer them. But somewhat like Kim in the North, the Moon administration appears to be dodging these questions for its own advantage, in hopes of peace. – The Korea Herald/ANN

Keenan Fagan is an assistant professor at Dongguk University in Seoul.