South Korean presidential hopeful Moon Jae-in would visit North Korea as a top priority should he win next year’s presidential election, Moon said during an interview on Friday.
Moon, who is hoping to run next year as the Minjoo Party’s candidate, also highlighted the need for the immediate resumption of activities at the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), the inter-Korean business complex closed by Seoul after Pyongyang’s long-range rocket launch in February.
“Let’s assume that you (Moon) are elected as the next president! Let’s also imagine that you can either choose to go to North Korea or the U.S. Which country would you visit first?” Kim Yong-ok, a well known South Korean philosopher, asked Moon, JoongAng Ilbo reported.
“I can answer that without any hesitation,” Moon said. “I will visit North Korea first. But before doing so, I will provide sufficient explanation to the U.S., Japan, and China on why I have to.”
During an extended interview, Moon discussed a variety of inter-Korean topics, including KIC and the deployment of the U.S.-made Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to South Korea.
“The KIC has to be resumed immediately, and the deployment of THAAD has to be left as a task for the next government,” Moon continued. “We have to discuss (THAAD) with Washington and Beijing and reach a rational agreement.”
This is the third time this week that Minjoo, South Korea’s main opposition party, has announced the need to postpone the deployment of the system, with Moon’s comments coming after a Minjoo statement on Tuesday and a previous press briefing by the candidate on Thursday.
“When we can provide more practical and close information about the North – more than what U.S. satellite intelligence can – then we will be able to secure high diplomatic ground during the talks with Washington and Tokyo.”
Moon Jae-in served as the Chief Presidential Secretary under the late former President Roh Moo-hyun, who in 2007 visited North Korea and met Kim Jong Il.
Moon hinted that he would continue the work of the Roh administration by working to rebuild trust with Pyongyang.
“So what exactly has South Korea achieved from the Six-Party talks?” Kim Yong-ok asked Moon.
“Overall, we can say that the meeting shifted the paradigm in international politics and the inter-Korean relations,” Moon said. “The Oct. 4 Peace Declaration (of 2007) wasn’t written in a day… There were no military clashes during Roh’s presidency, and that was the result of the accumulated trust between the two nations.”
Moon added that he regrets not being able to hold an inter-Korean summit earlier than October 2007, which came near the end of Roh’s presidency.
“If the North has adhered to the September 19 Joint Statement, then we could’ve held the summit far sooner,” said Moon referring to a statement in 2005 where Pyongyang pledged to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.
Moon’s approval ratings have steadily risen since the beginning of the “Park-Choi gate” scandal in late October, which has resulted in millions of South Koreans taking to the streets against alleged nepotism and corruption in Park Geun-hye’s administration.
A Friday poll from Gallup saw the Minjoo Party’s approval at 40 percent, the highest since 1998, the year President Kim Dae-jung was elected.
Moon’s approval is at 24 percent according to Realmeter’s latest poll, 7.5 percent ahead of Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary-General, who is also seen as a leading contender for the top job.
Moon previously ran for the presidency in 2012 and was defeated by Park Geun-hye.
Featured Image: Moon Jae-in’s Facebook
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