Has Moon Jae-in’s North Korea Peace Process Failed?
Since the current South Korean President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017, he has strived to engage in talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to deescalate the tensions on the Korean Peninsula, which were intensified during nine years of conservative governments before Moon gained power.
Even though Moon reached his hands out to Pyongyang immediately upon his inauguration in May 2017, Pyongyang conducted its sixth nuclear test in September 2017, leading then-U.S. President Donald Trump to warn about unleashing “fire and fury” against North Korea if it conducts another nuclear or missile test. Trump and Kim exchanged harsh words against each other, increasing tensions on the Korean Peninsula even more. Two months after the nuclear test, North Korea tested its Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), bringing much more anger from Washington and Seoul.
Still, Moon vowed to build peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula with a policy centered on dialogue, which is the classical approach of progressive governments on North Korea issues. He utilized the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games as an opportunity to entice Pyongyang to agree to dialogue. When Kim accepted Moon’s offer to participate in the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, Moon’s blueprint to denuclearize North Korea and construct lasting peace on the peninsula was activated.
Two months after the PyeongChang Olympics closed, Moon and Kim held a historical inter-Korean summit meeting in the inter-Korean House of Freedom in Panmunjom. Moon’s approval ratings reached above 80 percent at that time, demonstrating how strongly South Koreans wished to see peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula.
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