South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump will hold their summit in Seoul on November 7. Trump is the first American president to make a state visit to South Korea in 25 years since former U.S. President George H.W. Bush visited Korea in January 1992. A state visit offers the highest level protocol, indicating that both countries place much emphasis on the upcoming summit. Here’s Hong Hyun-ik, senior researcher at the Sejong Institute, to explain the significance of the upcoming South Korea-U.S. summit.
Trump’s visit to South Korea is part of his first Asian tour since his inauguration. It is also his first visit to South Korea, and Trump is the first foreign head of state to come to Korea since President Moon Jae-in took office. Their bilateral summit comes at a time when North Korea is aggressively developing a long-range missile capable of carrying a nuclear bomb, while the U.S. is trying to solve this problem, even considering military measures. Keen attention is placed on how South Korea and the U.S. will address the nuclear issue and ensure peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, which is in a precarious situation. The upcoming summit is expected to provide important momentum for the nuclear issue and regional security.
During his two-day visit to Korea on November 7 and 8, Trump will speak at the National Assembly. He will be the first American president to address the Korean legislature since former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke there in 1993. During his speech at Korea’s National Assembly, Trump is expected to stress the South Korea-U.S. alliance and urge the international community to put pressure on North Korea.
I think a parliamentary address will induce Trump to say something responsible regarding the North Korean nuclear issue to the international community. He is expected to tone down his rhetoric and refrain from using confrontational phrases. When dealing with North Korea, the South Korean government seeks to use both pressure and dialogue. Having this in mind, Trump may keep the possibility of dialogue open, though with some preconditions attached, while still expressing his firm determination to respond to North Korea’s nuclear weapons development.
The Moon-Trump summit early next month will mark the third one-on-one meeting between the two leaders, following the first one in Washington in June and the second in New York in September. The South Korea-U.S. summit is an opportunity for the two allies to reaffirm their friendship and cooperation. The question of what the two leaders will discuss will be a pressing matter. Attention is being paid to how significantly they will make progress in addressing the nuclear issue.
The Trump administration’s North Korea policy is “maximum pressure and engagement.” At the previous South Korea-U.S. summits, the two nations agreed to strengthen cooperation for pressure and sanctions on North Korea. Until early November, China may see a policy change after its party convention, which will mark the start of the second term of President Xi Jinping, while North Korea may launch another provocation. In this situation, attention turns to whether Trump will only stress pressure or whether the South Korean president will manage to elicit a message of dialogue from Trump during their summit. Japan will almost certainly send a strong message to North Korea during Trump’s visit to Japan. Many are wondering what message Trump will deliver in South Korea right after his Japan trip. I think how things will unfold until early next month will greatly influence his message.
Meanwhile, on October 13, President Trump announced that he would not recertify the Iran nuclear deal that had been agreed under the previous Obama administration. Trump said that he could not accept the negotiation that would delay Iran’s nuclear capabilities only for a while, calling it the “worst deal ever.” The nuclear agreement was signed in 2015 between Iran and six countries - the U.S., China, Russia, the U.K., France and Germany. Under the international deal, Iran would stop its nuclear program in return for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Trump has maintained that the deal will only postpone Iran’s nuclear weapons development by about ten years because it is not a framework that ensures complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement, like the one that is applied to the North Korean nuclear issue. For that reason, Trump has criticized the Iran nuclear deal for only boosting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in the mid-and long-term. That’s why he said he would disavow the deal. But it doesn’t mean he will terminate the agreement right now. He has put the ball in Congress’ court, as it has to decide whether the U.S. should impose new sanctions on Iran within six months. The U.S. will then make a final decision on whether to discard the nuclear deal altogether.
Trump’s decision not to recertify the nuclear deal with Iran is drawing a strong backlash from the international community, including the International Atomic Energy Agency. Trump stopped short of withdrawing from the deal, but the move is expected to have ripple effects in the international community. Diplomatic experts are concerned about the possibility of another nuclear crisis in Iran, following the one in North Korea, especially at a time when tension is escalating on the Korean Peninsula as a result of North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations.
The U.S. has made it clear that it doesn’t want an imperfect deal with the purpose of overcoming a temporary crisis. In other words, the U.S. has clarified once again that it will only make an agreement with North Korea when the communist nation dismantles its nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner. On the flip side, though, we can easily predict that it will be more difficult to reach an agreement with North Korea. The U.S. is in the process of ending the hard-earned Iran nuclear deal, which was agreed upon by five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany. It could make North Korea suspect that the U.S. may break an agreement at anytime, even after it signs the deal. On a negative note, Trump’s attitude will make it even more difficult to hold dialogue or negotiations for a solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.
Prior to his South Korea trip, Trump will travel to Japan to hold a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. After his Seoul visit, he will fly to China for a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Then, he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in Vietnam on November 10 and also the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Philippines on November 12. The American president’s Asian tour comes at a time when North Korea is advancing its nuclear capabilities and the Xi Jinping government in China starts its second term. A series of high-profile summits involving the U.S., South Korea, China and Japan, which are involved in the North Korean nuclear issue, are expected to set a new direction for South Korea-U.S. relations, U.S.-China relations, and U.S-Japan relations.
The U.S.-China summit will be as important as the South Korea-U.S. summit, as it may have a major impact on the North Korean nuclear issue and security conditions on the Korean Peninsula. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will likely encourage Trump to send a tough message to North Korea, partly having domestic politics in mind. Trump will first travel to Japan and then South Korea before visiting China. If President Moon Jae-in manages to persuade Trump to open the possibility of dialogue during the bilateral summit, rather than only insisting on pressure and sanctions on North Korea, the following U.S.-China summit might also be focused more on ways to promote peace and stability in Northeast Asia.
We’ll have to wait and see whether and how the historic South Korea-U.S. summit may find out ways to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue and ease the security crisis on the Korean Peninsula.
[Interview] High School Provides Special Education on Unification
A group of students is busy practicing singing at Seo Seoul Life Science High School in Guro-gu District, western Seoul. To participate in a singing competition for teenagers, the students rewrote the lyrics to a well-known song called “A Beauty.” Let’s hear from one of the school’s students, Lee Jae-hyun.
The lyrics describe how long Korea has been divided, how much people have missed their family members, and what they want to do after unification. For example, the words say “I find myself missing my dear family members a lot. It’s been as long as 72 years since division. The first thing I want to do after unification is to visit Mt. Geumgang.” To be honest with you, unification didn’t really appeal to me before. But while writing the lyrics, I searched for information on the subject. Now I feel unification means a lot to me. I wish unification will come about soon.
The specialized high school has seven departments, including applied music, tourism and culinary arts. The school also places emphasis on education on unification issues. Upon entering the school gate, students can see the phrase, “Let’s think about unification three times a day.” Here’s vice principal Jeon Seung-hwan to explain what this phrase means.
Students are rather indifferent to unification, and we wanted to raise their awareness of this important issue. The phrase contains our hope that students will ponder unification not only three times, but 30 or 300 times a day to contribute to facilitating the unification process. We provide the students with education on unification issues to help them develop a correct and sound view of their country and security matters.
The high school began to offer unification-related education programs in 1996. It has been running various programs, including seminars and lectures, which are designed to help the students approach unification issues in an easier way. To show them what North Korea is really like, the school asks North Korean defectors to give special lectures to the students and also lets the students watch North Korea-related news programs. Mr. Jeon continues to explain.
We offer a weekly, one-hour program called “Creative Experience Class” to freshmen. We often include some information about North Korea or unification in regular subjects. In math class, for example, teachers briefly compare different math terms used in South and North Korea. Also, we run a camp program, a singing competition, a writing contest and a quiz contest. They all have themes related to peace or unification. Through the diverse programs, the students come to know why it is necessary to achieve unification.
A special class is being held for freshmen. The class uses various materials and methods like a quiz or video screenings, rather than simple lectures, to let the students understand North Korea more easily and show more interest in unification issues. Let’s hear from teacher Shin Yu-min.
At this class, students learn about family life, the economy and resources in North Korea. Today, they learned about education in North Korea. We use a textbook produced by the school. Through this textbook titled “A Road to Unification,” students can fully understand the reality of life in North Korea. Also, games, videos and some experience programs are offered as well to teach the students the potential benefits of unification. I feel the students have changed their thoughts a lot, while receiving the one-hour unification class once a week.
The school has an exhibition hall, which displays some 1,000 items, including North Korean students’ uniforms and daily goods, as well as images featuring the theme of unification. The school’s exhibition hall is visited not only by students but other citizens as well, attracting more than 10-thousand visitors each year. Visitors vary in age and occupation, ranging from local residents, preschool children and middle and high school students, to soldiers, teachers and public officials on training programs. The Unification Ministry even designated the place as the Seoul Exhibition Hall. It is said that students, in general, are interested in North Korean classrooms, while ordinary citizens want to see what North Korean homes are like. Let’s listen again to Mr. Jeon.
Here, we made a reproduction of a North Korean house, which shows another aspect of the North. North Korea uses the 105-story Ryugyong Hotel in Pyongyang as propaganda. But in reality, the building only uses lower floors, with the higher ones not in use. A North Korean house looks like a South Korean one from the ‘70s or ‘80s. Usually, a family motto is hung on the wall of a South Korean home. In contrast, it is the portraits of former leaders Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il that decorate the walls of North Korean houses. Seeing this, visitors may probably imagine that North Korean people suffer from severe oppression.
Thanks to the school’s various helpful programs and active support, the students can access the rather serious topic of “unification” relatively easily and show more interest in North Korea and its people. Mr. Jeon says that this interest is a big, first step toward unification.
Without a doubt, we all wish for a unified Korea. Students should know and perceive North Korea correctly. If not, Korea will grow increasingly distant from unification. I think students should view the situation in a positive way to bring South and North Korea together. After receiving unification education here, they will hopefully serve as unification coordinators, who can reawaken their friends and acquaintances to the need for unification. That would be ideal.