South Korean President Moon Jae-in attended the G20 Summit in Germany on July 7 and 8 and focused on strengthening close ties and cooperation with major powers, including the U.S., China and Japan, during his informal meetings with world leaders. It was President Moon’s vision for bringing peace to the Korean Peninsula which dominated headlines. The vision was unveiled during Moon’s invitational speech at the Koerber Foundation in Berlin. Here’s Professor Kim Yong-hyun from the North Korean Studies Department at Dongguk University to explain the so-called “Berlin Initiative” in more detail.

The Berlin Initiative contains Moon’s overall policy for inter-Korean relations, peace on the Korean Peninsula, and the North Korean nuclear issue. The international community is responding to the vision positively. It explains in depth how to resolve the nuclear issue and improve inter-Korean ties in a pragmatic way.

A survey by Realmeter, a pollster in Seoul, found that 66.2 percent of the 505 respondents agreed with Moon’s peace initiative toward North Korea.

Moon said that he would not seek any form of unification by absorption but use both pressure and dialogue when dealing with North Korea. The key aspect of the Berlin Initiative is to establish lasting peace and draw a new economic map on the Korean Peninsula. In the new economic map, three axes would be set up in the form of a capital “H” on the Korean Peninsula along the west and east coast vertically, and across the military demarcation line horizontally. The economic roadmap would expand to include China and Russia to revitalize the economy on the entire peninsula.

Moon also said that the spirit of the two inter-Korean summits in 2000 and 2007 still remains effective, indicating that he would inherit the North Korea policy employed by two former South Korean presidents, Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun. He presented a five-point North Korea policy to dissolve the Cold War structure and secure permanent peace on the peninsula.

A peaceful Korean Peninsula is the core of the Moon government’s North Korea policy. The government will seek denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a way that will guarantee the security of the North Korean regime. Moon also called for a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. A new economic roadmap would involve connecting railroads across the Demilitarized Zone and building a gas pipeline across the two Koreas to Russia. Lastly, Moon stressed the importance of supporting non-political inter-Korean exchanges in the private sector. These proposals comprise Moon’s five-point North Korea policy.

Detailing plans on how to implement the Berlin Initiative, Moon proposed that the two Koreas begin to work on things that would entail relatively less political burden. First, he offered to hold reunions of separated families on October 4, which marks the 10th anniversary of the second inter-Korean summit. He also hoped that North Korea will participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics in the South. In another proposal, he suggested that the South and the North suspend hostile acts along their border as of July 27, the 64th anniversary of the 1953 Armistice Agreement. And lastly, Moon expressed his wish for resuming inter-Korean dialogue. Meanwhile, right after Moon announced his vision for inter-Korean peace in Berlin, the leaders of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan issued their first joint statement on North Korea. In the statement, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe committed to apply maximum pressure on North Korea to refrain from provocative and threatening actions and return to serious dialogue for denuclearization. The joint statement shows that the three leaders officially confirmed the principle of jointly responding to North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.

The joint statement shows that the three countries will put strong pressure on North Korea to resolve the nuclear issue proactively. Indirectly, it urges China to play a more active role in pressuring North Korea. In other words, it is sending a signal to China and Russia, which have been rather passive in addressing the nuclear issue.

In a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, July 11, President Moon explained that his peace initiative is the right policy that South Korea should pursue for better inter-Korean ties, although the goal seems to remain distant for now. He said his initiative is the only viable path for North Korea to take, adding that he is expecting a positive response from the North. To implement the initiative successfully, it seems necessary to come up with a strategy to narrow the involved countries’ differing views on a solution to the nuclear issue and elicit a change from North Korea.

I believe conditions for settling peace on the Korean Peninsula are already being created. South Korea needs to fully explain President Moon’s vision to involved countries such as North Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia, and to the South Korean public as well. Despite the deadlocked inter-Korean ties, South Korea may still improve bilateral relations through humanitarian projects, such as aid for North Korean infants and the reunions of separated families between the two Koreas. In that process, the proposals presented in the Berlin Initiative could be implemented one after another.

Based on President Moon’s Berlin Initiative, the Unification Ministry in Seoul says that it will push for a fundamental solution to the North Korean nuclear issue and lasting peace on the peninsula through Seoul’s independent role and cooperation with the international community. It remains to be seen how North Korea will respond to the Moon administration’s peace initiative.

[Interview] Former N. Korean Chef Works as N. Korean Food Expert in the South

North Korean food expert Ahn Young-ja is busy making North Korean-style fermented soybean paste. She says there is no difference between South and North Korea when it comes to making and enjoying the traditional sauce. Ahn explains that soybean paste may taste different around the North because households in different regions with different climates have their own way of mixing ingredients to make it.

Soybean paste and red pepper paste should maintain their savory flavor when boiled. North Korean red pepper paste should taste like the azalea flower. You’ve probably never heard about that. Can you guess where the azalea flavor comes from? It comes from pine needles. Our ancestors used to put jars for fermented sauces under pine trees. The sauces would be fermented with pine needles and this later made red pepper paste taste like the azalea. The blocks of soybean paste can be turned into the ideal soybean paste only when dried and fermented at the right temperature and humidity.

Ms. Ahn worked as a chef in North Korea for nearly 20 years. She received training at a culinary school for three years. After completing the rigorous training, she worked at the kitchen of a guest house to cook food for high-ranking officials and foreign guests. After resettling in South Korea, however, she never mentioned her past career in North Korea.

North Korea is different from South Korea. In the North, people just follow the party’s directions and do whatever the party tells them to do. I had no choice but to work as a chef because the party taught me for free and ordered me to cook. But here in the capitalistic South Korean society, I can do what I really want to do. I didn’t want to be a chef again here. Why? My life as a chef in North Korea was miserable. It was a very difficult job. I didn’t want to experience the pressure of working as a chef again. Few women want to work in the kitchen. So, I didn’t talk of cooking when I arrived.

To her, cooking was nothing but fruitless, arduous labor. In North Korea, she had to cook all the time, wearing her military uniform, even though she was a young girl who wanted to wear pretty clothes. In South Korea, she worked in the clothing sector for some time. She often offered her food to acquaintances, and rumors of her brilliant cooking skills began to spread. In 2014, she started to work at the North Korean Traditional Culinary and Culture Institute to give lectures on North Korean cuisine. Those who attended her lectures were mostly students who majored in culinary art or professors, and her class drew an enthusiastic response. She even appeared on a cooking show on a local cable television channel. Her assistant Ahn Se-min is one of the students who took her class.

Ms. Ahn strictly follows her recipes. To produce a distinctive flavor of her food, she informs us what ingredients we should add or remove. The flavors of her dishes are already decided even before they are made. In other words, she knows what a particular food should taste like eventually. Based on the recipes, she checks how the food tastes while cooking and adjusts the heat or ingredients. In terms of cooking methods, I found she was a lot different from other chefs.

Ms. Ahn says that her North Korean food mixes the ingredients’ flavors and nutritious elements in a harmonious way, while still keeping their unique taste intact.

The taste of every ingredient should be kept alive. The basics of North Korean food are pretty simple—remove the bad flavor and make the most of its good flavor. A harmony of ingredients is also very important. For example, beef and dried pollock are a good match. When the two ingredients are fried together, the food tastes amazing. When I boil beef broth, I put pollock in it. The broth tastes a lot better. Pork is a wonderful ingredient. It goes well with everything when fried. When cooking, I always think of the harmony of various ingredients.

She said she wanted to forget about working as a chef in North Korea, but it looks like cooking is still the most exciting topic for her. She says the happiest moment for her is when people enjoy food. Ms. Ahn now talks about summertime health food enjoyed by North Koreans.

Naengmyeon or noodles in cold broth is definitely the most popular summer food. Chogyetang or chilled chicken soup is also enjoyed in summer. It is also called mung bean jelly soup because mung bean jelly, boiled chicken and mushrooms are served in cold broth. North Koreans also like to eat cold squid salad during summer. Cold summer dishes vary from region to region. Some people make dumplings with millet, add some honey to them and put them in cold soybean broth. Others eat mung bean jelly with kimchi. I saw people eat slices of raw fish like gray mullet in water kimchi with sliced radishes. Some others also enjoy sashimi broth.

We hope people on both sides of the inter-Korean border will soon share some healthy food that helps beat the heat on hot summer days.