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Moon’s adviser calls for inter-Korean summit for breakthrough

Moon Chung-in, special adviser to President Moon Jae-in for foreign affairs and national security (Yonhap)
Moon Chung-in, special adviser to President Moon Jae-in for foreign affairs and national security (Yonhap)

Amid heightened uncertainties over inter-Korean relations, a special adviser to President Moon Jae-in called for the leaders of the two Koreas to meet in order to break the deadlock and move forward after the North’s demolition of a joint liaison office last month.

“Kim Yo-jong, the vice department director of the North’s Workers Party, said the relationship with the South has changed to that of an enemy and blocked all communication channels between the two Koreas. The only way to solve and upend the situation is when the two leaders meet,” Moon Chung-in, special adviser for diplomatic and security affairs, said Wednesday during a forum on the Korean Peninsula hosted by the Korea Press Foundation.

“The two leaders spent the most time together and there is no one who knows Kim Jong-un better than President Moon. They need to meet face-to-face and solve the issue. Sending a special envoy (to the North) would not suffice.”

Adviser Moon stressed that the summit doesn’t need to be formal, but an impromptu meeting like the second inter-Korean summit, when the two leaders met at Panmunjom on the inter-Korean border on May 26, 2018, could work.

“With only two years left for President Moon’s tenure, the two need to meet to find a new momentum,” he said.

Last month, Kim Yo-jong, Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, lashed out and warned of a series of measures against Seoul for its failure to stop defectors from sending anti-Pyongyang leaflets across the border. It included scrapping an inter-Korean military agreement, permanently suspending the joint-liaison office and Kaesong industrial park. Following her statement, the North publicly demolished the inter-Korean liaison office, putting inter-Korean relations at its lowest point in recent years.

Moon views there are three ways the Seoul government can react: The first is to manage the situation with stability, second is dramatically improve the inter-Korean relations by turning around the situation and last is to take a hard-line stance.

President Moon’s initiative and policy direction on North Korea will be reflected in how he reshuffles his security and diplomatic lineup, the adviser added.

Following Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul’s resignation last month over frayed inter-Korean relations, the post has been left vacant. Along with the ministerial post, there is high speculation that President Moon plans to change the security lineup, including the national security adviser and head of the National Intelligence Agency.

Former Unification Minister Lee Jong-seok, also echoed adviser Moon’s stance that a summit between the two Koreas needs to happen, and such a meeting could be highly likely.

“But the summit should take place when President Moon is willing to keep the agreements. If the government can’t implement the agreements made between the two Koreas, it could return back to zero,” said Lee. “There were many agreements made in the past, but almost none were implemented. The government needs to be willing to put those words into action.”

Amid reports that Stephen Biegun, the US deputy secretary of state and the point man on North Korea, is planning to visit South Korea this month, Lee says the visit will unlikely solve the stalled denuclearization process and improve inter-Korean relations, unless the US brings something substantial to the table.

“We don’t know what Biegun will suggest. But without the US’ policy change and forward-looking stance, the suggestions won’t have much meaning,” he said. 

By Ahn Sung-mi (