Daniel R. DePetris
The fruits of the April 2018 summit in the Joint Security Area, where Moon and Kim pledged to embark on a fresh start after an eleven-year absence of dialogue at the leadership level, are beginning to spoil.
U.S.-North Korea Summit Proves to Be All Talk, No Seoul
Moon Jae-in was a very busy man last week. He spent three days in Northern Europe with a large host of dignitaries and very important people. During that time he engaged in a “hackathon” with the Finlandian president, held talks with the Norwegian prime minister, and attended a state dinner with the king and queen of Sweden. It was an opportunity for the South Korean president to play the statesman and escape the rough-and-tumble politics of Seoul for at least a few days.
Moon, however, has a big problem. He has staked his five-year tenure in large part on transforming inter-Korean relations and turning the page on seven decades of animus on the Korean Peninsula. So, he can’t escape the North Korea file for long—even when he is in the Nordic.
In fact, Moon delivered two speeches during his three-day trip, which were heavily devoted to his peace project with the North. His June 14 address to the Swedish parliament, in which Moon predicted that the “international society will immediately respond if North Korea puts forth sincere efforts” towards denuclearization, was a public plea to knock some sense into the North Korean elite. By pushing Pyongyang into fulfilling its obligations in the letter and spirit of the three inter-Korean summits last year, Moon was sending a very basic message to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un: we are in this thing together, so help me help you.