U.S. President Donald Trump visited South Korea on November 7 and 8. He is the first American president to make a state visit to South Korea in 25 years since former president George H.W. Bush visited Korea in 1992. Trump’s tight schedule, about 25 hours in South Korea, included a summit with his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in. Although it was a short visit, Trump’s South Korea tour is believed to have strengthened the two countries’ alliance. Here’s Professor Kim Hyun-wook of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.
Considering the fact that President Moon visited Camp Humphreys himself to welcome President Trump, as well as the South Korea-U.S. summit and a press conference, I think the two countries had closely coordinated their positions in advance and produced a win-win result. Trump’s plan to visit the Demilitarized Zone separating South and North Korea, although it didn’t end up happening, and his parliamentary speech dismissed prior concerns over his possible unexpected remarks. It turned out Trump’s South Korea visit was far more successful than expected.
Trump’s first stop in his South Korean tour was Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek. It is the newly expanded military base for the U.S. 8th Army headquarters, the key unit of the U.S. Forces Korea that occupied the North Korean capital of Pyongyang during the Korean War. President Moon initially planned to welcome President Trump at the presidential office in Seoul, but he made a surprise visit to the army base. It was the first time a Korean president greeted a visiting foreign leader outside the presidential office, indicating the solid South Korea-U.S. alliance. After an official welcoming ceremony at the presidential office, the two heads of state held a summit. Experts are saying that Moon reaffirmed the principle of a peaceful solution to Korean Peninsula issues, and Trump earned practical benefits by supporting Moon’s vision of achieving permanent peace in the region.
It seems South Korea gave some concessions to the U.S. in the economic area, since it thought Trump had no intention of negotiating over economic issues, including the bilateral free trade agreement, or FTA. In return, South Korea led the discussion in North Korea-related issues, with Moon stressing the need for peace on the Korean Peninsula. On a similar note, Trump also mentioned his North Korea policy that excluded a military option. Therefore, South Korea was able to underline the need for peace as it wanted, while Trump refrained from his previously aggressive comments about a military option and a hardline policy. Other than arms purchases from the U.S., Seoul also agreed to expand and reinforce the rotational deployment of the U.S. strategic assets to the Korean Peninsula to beef up the U.S. deterrent against North Korea’s possible provocations, which South Korea is concerned about.
The world paid attention to what message would be announced at the South Korea-U.S. summit in regards to the North Korean nuclear issue. The two leaders saw eye to eye on the need to respond firmly to North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and to focus on pressure and sanctions to induce the North to come to the dialogue table.
Trump softened his previously heated tone on Pyongyang, saying that he believes it makes sense for North Korea to come to the negotiating table and make a deal that is good for the people of North Korea and the people of the world.
Trump stressed that North Korean provocations are a threat to the world and called for global unity, including China and Russia, against the North’s nuclear threats, reiterating his government’s existing North Korea policy. But the U.S. president did not mention a military option that might disturb peace and escalate tension on the Korean Peninsula. In other words, Trump did not touch on something South Korea is worried about.
Moon and Trump also adopted a new missile guideline that will completely lift a limit on Korean missiles’ payloads. Accordingly, the South Korean military will be able to develop more powerful ballistic missiles with heavier payloads to boost its self-defensive deterrent against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.
At present, South Korea is not allowed to develop missiles with a range of over 800 kilometers and a payload surpassing 500 kilograms. But the restrictions will be completely removed. Missiles with warheads weighing less than 500 kilograms cannot function as a bunker-buster. If the enemy forces hide underground, these missiles are useless. But removing the cap on the payloads of missiles means a significant change in the missiles themselves. To deliver heavier payloads, missiles should improve their performance. Missiles with improved warheads and functions will be able to attack underground fortresses or headquarters in North Korea, so they will work as a very strong deterrent. South Korea can show this to North Korea, which I think is greatly significant.
On the second day of his South Korea visit, Trump delivered a speech to Korea’s National Assembly in Yeouido, Seoul. It is the first address by a U.S. leader to the Korean parliament in 24 years. The last U.S. president to speak at the National Assembly was Bill Clinton in 1994. Trump said that the South Korea-U.S. alliance was forged in the crucible of war and strengthened by the trials of history. He strongly criticized the dire human rights situation in North Korea, defining the Kim Jong-un regime as a “cruel dictatorship.” He also urged China and Russia to cooperate to find a solution to North Korea’s nuclear and missile development.
In his parliamentary speech, Trump underlined the South Korea-U.S. alliance and praised South Korea’s remarkable achievement. He allocated much of his speech to the North Korean human rights issue and his North Korea policy. I imagine Trump wondered what to say during his address to Korean lawmakers and probably discussed the matter with South Korea before. It would be rather inappropriate to talk about the South Korea-U.S. FTA or jobs in the U.S. So, it seems he focused on some matters that South Korea and the U.S. can cooperate on and the bilateral alliance can share. These included North Korea’s human rights violations and its need for denuclearization.
Commenting on Trump’s South Korea visit, North Korea condemned the two leaders of South Korea and the U.S. and their move to strengthen cooperation. In a commentary on November 8, the Rodong Sinmun newspaper in the North said that Trump flew to South Korea as he wants to increase military threats against the North and intends to light the fuse for a nuclear war. The paper added that the problem is the South Korean authorities, which are blindly obedient to the U.S. scheme. Apparently, it was also criticizing President Moon. Attention turns to how North Korea may act down the road.
I think North Korea will seek to complete its nuclear deterrent against the U.S. by developing an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, with a nuclear warhead. If that’s the case, the possibility of North Korea-U.S. dialogue is very low for now. After Trump wraps up his Asian tour and returns to the U.S., North Korea will try to mend ties with China, as seen in the recent development. Still, North Korea may go ahead with its ICBM test. Then tension will only grow between Pyongyang and Washington. But at some point in time, momentum for dialogue will be formed. The South Korean government should seize the opportunity of the shift toward dialogue.
[Interview] Defector Dreams of Becoming Professor of Beauty Studies
In the Hongdae area, the trendy youth culture hub of Seoul, North Korean defector Park Jin-seon runs a beauty shop. Born in Hoeryong, North Hamgyong Province in 1986, she escaped from North Korea with her family in 2001 and came to South Korea in 2003. In fact, beauty experts are hard to find in North Korea. Park has special reasons for choosing this particular profession here in the South.
When I was a child, I suffered burns to my face and body. I was so little that I don’t remember that. But I had an intense inferiority complex. For that reason, I was greatly interested in doing my own makeup. When I arrived in South Korea, my mother promised me she would help me get surgery on my face. But things didn’t turn out well, and I was frustrated, visiting various different hospitals. After a while, I realized that nothing would change. I made up my mind to accept myself just the way I am and work in the beauty industry.
After graduating from high school, Park chose not to go to college but got a job at a beauty shop instead. From childhood, she liked to do her and her friends’ makeup, and always focused on hiding her scars. But the main reason she got a job was because she wanted to help her parents, though only in a small way, as they were struggling to resettle in South Korea. However, working in a beauty shop was more difficult than she had thought.
First, I was unfamiliar with the beauty terms. I was supposed to give customers some advice about their hair or skin, but it was a difficult job. At first, it was challenging to learn everything—from lipsticks and mascara to eyeliner and skin treatments. It was difficult to learn all the terms related to beauty treatments.
She wasn’t good at giving her customers a massage. Soon, her wrists and shoulders began to hurt. While she was helping other people stay beautiful, her own body and mind were far from being beautiful. She was 21 years old. All she thought about was quitting her job.
I told my mom that I wasn’t sure of what I was doing and this wasn’t the right job for me. I cried and said that the head of the beauty shop gave me a hard time and I wanted to quit. Then my mom said, “If you feel that way, you may quit. But you’ve just taken the first step into society. You might be in an even more difficult situation in the future. If you give up now, you will be more likely to give up other things later.” So I said that the job was too hard for me. My mom said again, “It’s up to you. But still, I wish you will try your best, since it’s your first step in society.” Her words gave me courage and hope. The next morning, I decided to work even harder and keep going just a little longer.
Thanks to her mother, Park got through her initial tough time at work and began to enjoy her job. The head of the beauty shop, who was a visiting professor of the beauty department at a local college, paid attention to Park’s diligence and accuracy and advised her to study. So, she entered the beauty department at a cyber university. She was good at both theory and practice, and she was able to learn skills quickly. She went on to complete the master’s course in the beauty industry and public health. And she took up another challenge of getting a job overseas.
I often felt hurt because of my North Korean accent. Sometimes, I found myself hoping to work at a place where nobody knew who I was. I vaguely thought that it would be good for me to get a job in a foreign country. I made preparations for obtaining a U.S. esthetician license and interviewing in English. I learned how to treat customers through rigorous training. It took about a year to complete the process. Finally, I found a job at the Korea Spa Shop at a hotel in Singapore. I made the right choice because I was able to reach my potential in Singapore.
After working in Singapore for two years, Park returned to South Korea. Thanks to her career in Singapore, she was offered jobs at various places on favorable terms. Despite the concerns and dissuasion of people around her, however, she opened her private shop in 2016. At first, she was faced with unexpected difficulties.
A shop doesn’t draw customers automatically. I was totally ignorant how business or marketing worked. I was confused for the first few months. So I bought several books about marketing. After reading them, I could understand the advice people had given me. I focused on promotional activities, like offering coupons and holding special events in different seasons. I also began to use blogs and social networking sites. If you type “Hongdae” into a search engine, you can find my shop. More and more customers are visiting my shop these days, and many of them are regular ones. As a result, sales continue to go up.
Park has received various awards related to beauty treatment and skin care. She also worked as a judge and member of the organizing committee of the Korea World Beauty and Culture Festival, establishing herself as a beauty expert. The young woman in her 30s has constantly improved herself and made such a remarkable achievement in a field that is rather unfamiliar to North Korean defectors.
My three-page long resume shows the various licenses I have earned. While studying, I thought I should build a career in order to become a professor and teach students. So I obtained licenses one by one, including the National-Interstate Council of State Boards of Cosmetology or NIC license. That means I can open a shop and work in 50 states in the U.S., including Arizona. Recently, I earned licenses related to atopic dermatitis, sports massage and scalp treatment.
To become who she is today, she has gone through a lot of difficulties. She doesn’t want her fellow North Korean newcomers to undergo the trial and error that she had experienced, and her next plan is to become a professor to foster younger students.
I’ve been through so many hardships. I wish things will be easier for other North Korean expats. I hope to become a professor and teach students to share with them what I have experienced. As a teacher, I would be immensely happy and proud to see the students grow and to guide young North Korean newcomers.
We want to give our support to Park, who dreams of being the first North Korean defector to become a professor of beauty studies.