What Moon Can Learn from Kim Jong-un

  • By Chosun Ilbo columnist Kim Dae-joong

    May 22, 2019 13:17

    Kim Dae-joong

    Since President Moon Jae-in is solely focused on pacifying North Korea, how can he be so sure that North Korea will not invade South Korea? What kind of security guarantees did he receive from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that motivates him to disarm the country and fill the minds of the public with delusions of peace?

    The only things he has to show for it are a couple of meetings with Kim, and traveling to the U.S. repeatedly to serve as his "de facto spokesman." But the public has no interest in jovial meetings between the two leaders but wants to see a concrete guarantee that North Korea has no intention of invading or annexing the South.

    Two things are required for the public to trust any such a security guarantee. First, Moon and his government must take steps to instill a sense of security. Peace cannot be guaranteed by warm and fuzzy feelings. It requires accurate information and sound decisions. In other words, South Korea's ability to defend itself is a prerequisite for peace. The Moon administration has failed to instill any such sense of security. Perhaps the president did receive some kind of pledge from Kim, but if it is confidential it has no meaning whatsoever for the public.

    Kim needs to up his game too. He has never mentioned peace with South Korea and has yet to pledge to coexist peacefully with it. It is common sense that at least some sort of public pledge by Kim is needed for South Koreans to trust his intentions. The world remembers the foolishness of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who trusted Hitler's worthless promises on the eve of World War II. On the Korean Peninsula, where such empty pledges lost their value a long time ago, the president's unilateral pursuit of peace is no less foolish. But even supposing Kim announces peace with South Korea, Seoul could end up offering economic support even though the North has not given up its nuclear weapons.

    Instead of offering a basis for trust, Moon is busy writing off skeptics as warmongers. In a meeting with senior officials on April 1, he said, "There are attempts to drive a wedge between the Korea-U.S. alliance and to return to the days of conflict and confrontation. Being dissatisfied with dialogue between [South] Korea, North Korea and the U.S. and seeking to return to the past practices of conflict and confrontation will not help achieve peace on the Korean peninsula."

    U.S. President Donald Trump and Moon are both responsible for the widening rift between Seoul and Washington due to their failure to agree on easing sanctions against the North and offering aid and support. Investing in security is simply being prepared for all eventualities. And the top priority of a country's leader is to protect the lives and assets of his people. A president must not gamble with them based on pipe dreams.

    But the government is utterly unprepared for any eventualities. Instead, it is busy disarming. Past authoritarian regimes perhaps spoke about war too often, and used the fear of war to keep the public under control. But left-wing administrations do essentially the same thing with the prospect of peace, because it frees people from anxiety and makes them lower their guard. Peace is a wonderful thing, but even while the public hopes for peace, a country's leaders must be prepared for war in case it comes. That is the stark reality.

    Kim made two comments recently that caught the attention of South Koreans. The first was in a speech in the Supreme People's Assembly. "I will not cede an inch when it comes to the fundamental interests and issues of our people no matter what challenges and obstacles I face," he said. And as he observed North Korea's latest missile launch, he said, "Be reminded of the fact that true peace and security is guaranteed and assured by strong power."

    Those are the words that should be coming out of the mouth of the South Korean president. Moon has a few lessons to learn from Kim Jong-un.

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