Moon Jae-in has advocated engagement with North Korea
He was involved in the 'Sunshine Policy' of 1998 to 2008
Seoul’s policy on North Korea is about to get a major overhaul.
Liberal reformer Moon Jae-in was sworn in Wednesday after winning a snap election to replace impeached President Park Geun-hye.
Moon has advocated dialogue with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, in stark contrast to Park’s approach of tough sanctions and aggressive rhetoric.
Speaking at his swearing in ceremony, Moon promised to “resolve the security crisis as soon as possible.”
“If it is necessary, I will fly immediately to Washington and also visit Beijing and Tokyo,” he said.
“Under the right conditions, I will also go to Pyongyang. For peace on the Korean Peninsula, I will do everything that I can do.”
Moon also vowed to further strengthen the alliance between South Korea and the US.
While he was elected largely on concerns about corruption and the economy, North Korea loomed large after weeks of rising tensions in the region.
Return to sunshine?
A former special forces soldier and human rights lawyer, Moon came in for criticism during the campaign from hardline conservatives who saw him as weak on North Korea.
He has called for a combination of negotiations and economic cooperation alongside military and security measures.
“I am confident to lead the diplomatic efforts involving multiple parties, which will lead to the complete abandonment of the North Korean nuclear program, and bring the relationship between South and North to peace, economic cooperation and mutual prosperity,” Moon said in an April 25 debate.
His stance has been compared to the so-called “Sunshine Policy” of the liberal governments of 1998 to 2008. By no coincidence, he was a key adviser to those administrations.
During the Sunshine Policy, Seoul actively engaged Pyongyang, which led to closer relations on both sides of the border and saw two South Korean Presidents visit the North Korean capital. However, the approach ultimately failed to halt North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.