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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
Leading South Korean presidential candidate Moon Jae-in of the Minjoo (Democratic) Party on Sunday released an exhaustive list of the inter-Korean policies he hopes to enact if he wins power on May 9.
Called “Strong Republic of Korea and the peaceful Korean Peninsula,” the over one thousand word long statement is the most in-depth list of proposed inter-Korean policies released by Moon’s team so far.
It contains proposals for the restarting of the six-party talks, increasing economic cooperation between the two Koreas, and a plan to set inter-Korean policy in stone through legislation that can be ratified by both the South’s National Assembly and the North’s Supreme People’s Assembly.
In short, the statement confirms what many believed would be the approach of a future President Moon Jae-in: an unapologetic return to the “Sunshine Era” policies of the early 2000s. His team calls it a “bold” blueprint, and, if enacted, it’s certain to cause friction between Seoul and the Trump Administration, particularly in its proposals for a South Korean defense policy which distances itself from the U.S.
NK News has translated what we think are some of the most important lines.
Below is a partial translation – including only what NK News sees as the most important parts of Moon’s statement. For the full Korean version, check here.
“Animosity has grown, and ‘unification’ is turning into something that is only troublesome (to South Koreans).
Neither peace nor prosperity can be assured this way. For the permanent peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula, we need a completely new plan. We need a bold blueprint to overcome today’s (inter-Korean) crisis.
I will not allow any form of North Korea’s armed provocations against us. I will prevent war with thorough crisis management and a steadfast commitment to the ROK-U.S. alliance.
Nothing is more dangerous than letting others decide our fate.
Forming an unwavering national security posture will be our first step towards the peace. With the strong defense, South Korea will not only preserve peace – we will build it as well.
First, securing the means to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapon and missiles programs will be our top priority.
To counter the North Korean nuclear weapons, the government will establish the Kill Chain and Korea Air and Missile Defense (KAMD) – the core systems needed to counter the North’s nuclear arms.
We will enhance our military’s independent capability for the surveillance, reconnaissance, and acquisition of information. We will strengthen the forces to be able to paralyze the enemy’s command and long-range artillery.
“Nothing is more dangerous than letting others decide our fate”
Second, wartime Operational Control (OPCON) will be transferred to South Korea in early stages. Seoul will actively utilize the U.S.’s strategic assets, but we will take the responsibility for our defense.
Third, South Korea will annually increase (drafted) soldiers’ salaries to reach 50% of the minimum wage by 2020.
Fourth, South Korea will root out corruption in the defense industry.”
“From the foundation of the overwhelming dominance of the national defense, we will build a peaceful Korean Peninsula.
Pyongyang will have to choose one between two options: insist on nuclear and missiles and end up in isolation and annihilation, or to give up the systems and choose peace and prosperity.
70 years ago, we were powerless. But the situation is different now.
Seoul will persuade Beijing and resume the six-party talks, Washington will improve its relations with Pyongyang and bring Pyongyang to the negotiation table.
Instead of urging that “Pyongyang should act first”, Seoul will lead the simultaneous actions from Pyongyang, Washington and other parties concerned.
We will no longer rely on “Beijing’s role” (to change Pyongyang) and will form a new framework of inter-Korean policies based on “Seoul’s role.”
South Korea will make the Korean Peninsula a nuclear free zone.
Within this new framework, North Korea’s complete disposal of nuclear arms and denuclearization should be comprehensively pushed ahead with the sign of peace treaty.
We have to eliminate the source of possible war, by implementing a mutual arms control agreement in stages.
“Seoul will persuade Beijing and resume the six-party talks”
Inheriting the Sunshine Policy and the engagement policy towards North Korea, we will strategically push North Korea towards change.”
“First, no matter what, the government will make sure that meetings of separated families are held regularly.
Soon the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games will be held. We will support the North Korean team’s participation and joint cheering squad that South Koreans can participate.
The central government should not monopolize inter-Korean cooperation.
The second is the enactment of inter-Korean cooperation and agreement on the Korean Peninsula.
From the July 4 South-North Joint Communiqué, Inter-Korean Basic Agreement, June 15th North–South Joint Declaration and to October 4 Declaration: we have to continue our valuable outcomes from the past.
The agreement made between the leaders of the South and the North should be ratified and enacted by National Assembly, so we can establish lasting inter-Korean policies that do not swing back and forth between the change of the government.
To make this possible, National Assembly’s role in the inter-Korean cooperation will be increased.
The assembly will lead the enactment of the inter-Korean agreements, and produce a bill with North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA): it will result in the increase of predictability and permanence of inter-Korean policies.
“The central government should not monopolize inter-Korean cooperation.”
Each side will no longer shift the responsibility to the other side. Incidents like the closure of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) will be preventable.
The third is economic unification, so that both the South and the North can prosper.
South Korea is in urgent need to expand its market, and that is same for North Korea. This means that depending on how we build the inter-Korean relations to come, and we may be able to find the way to resolve worries about the daily livelihood of South Koreans.
We should not be bound just to political unification. Both the South and the North need to form an “economic community” to prosper.
Formation of the common economic community will lead to the rise of the market of 80 million population. If the economic bloc of Korean Peninsula is set, our potential growth rate will increase by one percent.”
TRUMP AND MOON
So what should we make of all this? During a phone call with NK News, one of the officials who contributed to Moon’s inter-Korean statement said the team is more than confident that they will be able to talk with President Trump should Moon win the presidency.
“Both the South and the North need to form an “economic community” to prosper”
“Recently, U.S. President Trump stated that Washington’s strategy on Pyongyang would be ‘maximum pressure and engagement,'” Bae Ki-chan, a former presidential secretary to Roh Moo-hyun, said.
“That is not so different from Moon’s policy towards Pyongyang,” said Bae, arguing that the two sides may have a lot in common. “The question is when we will engage the North. Once the new government is born, around June to July this year, there might be the opportunity to start engagement.”
Bae said the transfer of Operation Control (OPCON) of South Korea’s defenses back to South Korea is one of Moon’s top priorities.
“Having the capability of our own to defend against the North Korean threats is critical,” Bae said. “By transferring the OPCON, the ROK military will finally be able to (independently) defend itself against the DPRK threats.”
“That is what the U.S. wanted (in the past), and we think that President Trump will want that as well.”
A long-time DPRK watcher argued that managing relations with Washington will not be easy should Moon become President, as Trump will likely oppose his new “Sunshine 2.0”, as it’s been called by observers.
“But never say never – when Moon was chief-of-staff to Roh Moo-hyun he had first-hand experience of trying to warm relations with the DPRK whilst the U.S. administration was trying to do the opposite,” Tristan Webb, a senior analyst for NK Pro and a former senior DPRK research analyst for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), said.
“President Trump might be willing to let the ROK give the Sunshine Policy another try so long as the DPRK doesn’t launch any ICBMs or test any nukes.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Moon Jae-in’s official website, edited by NK News.