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S. Yoon: Address to International Leadership Conference 2019

Address to International Leadership Conference 2019, Seoul, Korea, May 15-17, 2019


Peace and security in Northeast Asia are facing a formidable challenge from North Korea. North Korea is expanding its capacity to use nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, destabilizing the region and severely hurting the national interests of its neighboring countries, including the Republic of Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Russia.

What is the main thrust of the crisis, and how can we get through it?

The North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un is continuously mimicking his grandfather, Premier Kim Il-sung. His costume play is well reflected in North Korea’s diplomatic strategies.

Kim Il-sung collected benefits from both the Soviet Union and China by shuttling the two major communist countries equidistantly from the time he took power in North Korea in 1945 in the wake of the end of the Second World War until the early 1950s. These benefits enabled Kim Il-sung to trigger the Korean War in June 1950.

Let’s see how Kim Jong-un copies his grandfather. Kim Jong-un is attempting to gain the benefit of Chinese President Xi in order to induce U.S. President Trump to decide to lift sanctions against North Korea.

Not only that, he is manipulating the United States so that China can increase its provision of such strategic goods as crude oil to North Korea and allow freer China–North Korea border trade, virtually nullifying the international sanctions on North Korea. With these gains, Kim Jong-un will be able to complete nuclearization and emerge as an internationally recognized king of nuclear power.

The international solidarity supporting North Korea’s denuclearization should be deepened and widened or South Korea and the United States will get fooled by the North. Any laxity in this solidarity can repeat the tragedy of the 1950s.

North Korea and its followers in the South have been eager to drive a wedge between the Republic of Korea and the United States. The level of this challenge will be further increasing.

Therefore, first and foremost, the White House should not put the R.O.K–U.S. alliance on a scale, weighing the possibility of gains in domestic politics. The moment the U.S. calls the South Korea–U.S. joint military exercises “an inappropriate war game,” it ends up becoming North Korean propaganda that blames the R.O.K.–U.S. alliance as nothing other than a warmongering “devil.”

By any measure, Korea is neither Syria nor Afghanistan. A 155-mile Demarcation Line in the Demilitarized Zone is the very forefront to safeguard liberal democracy in North East Asia. Downsizing the United States Forces Korea does not guarantee the White House any political gains.

The Galápagosization of North Korea has evolved over the 74-year history of successive North Korean dictatorships. The Juche ideology of Kim Il-sung, who established the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea in 1945, as well as the military-first politics of his son, Kim Jung-il and his grandson Kim Jung-un are all the outcomes of North Korea’s addiction to the Galápagos syndrome. Nowhere else in the contemporary world has this kind of history.

The problem is, this lone dictator in an isolated nation is arming himself with absolute weapons jeopardizing the whole of humankind.

Therefore, in order to eliminate threats and secure peace in Northeast Asia, more outside information should go into and be circulated in this closed society. Let freedom penetrate every corner of the country. That’s our mandate.

In this regard, the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act enacted on December 31, 2018, gives the details of mandates. It stipulates that the allies should cooperate to achieve “complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization” and submit a report explaining the rationale of sanctions relief within 30 days in the case of lifting sanctions on North Korea.

Yes, the principle is “no sanctions waiver before the complete denuclearization of North Korea.” The allies should strictly follow this principle and exert our best efforts to spread outside information and freedom into every corner of the North. This kind of intervention will help lower the possibility of military clashes on the Korean Peninsula by making Kim Jong-un be more cautious in making misjudgments.

Historical experiences have taught us that the stability and development of the Korea–U.S. alliance enhance the capability of settling peace and security in Northeast Asia. That’s why Kim, Jung-un, as were his predecessors, will try to break the R.O.K.–U.S. alliance by driving wedge between President Moon and President Trump.

Thus, foreign affairs and security officials of South Korea and the United States should diversify measures to solidify mutual trust and friendship between the two countries. This should not be overlooked, as “a crisis in trust” can lead to “a crisis in alliance.” Plus, we need to take the chance to upgrade the alliance by resolving bilateral issues such as the Status of Forces Agreement with an in-depth discussion between the leaders of the two nations.

If South Korea and the United States strengthen cooperation in all fields, including diplomacy, security, economy and politics, freedom will spill over into India–Pacific region, and those who threaten its freedom will lose their ground.

Up until now, Pyongyang has been piling up its nukes and ballistic missile capabilities and is speeding up to deploy them. Indeed, the North Korean threat is increasing rather than decreasing, and doing so very rapidly.

One clear evidence is a new tactical guided weapon that North Korea test-fired on April 17th and May 4th. What will happen if North Korea loads a solid-fuel guided missile that does not need much time to fuel on its launch vehicle and fires at a time that Kim wants? What if that guided missile is tipped with warheads or EMP bombs? The answer is: burned to the ground. That means it will totally scorch the area, turning it into a pitch-dark death land! On May 9, Mr. Kim resumed the ballistic missile provocation and blatantly showed off his capability.

Misjudgment is nothing other than underestimating the signal. And misjudgments on our side invite misjudgments on the side of adversary. Neither South Korea nor the United States should make any plays that would nudge Kim Jong-un into misjudgment.

North Korea’s society can be transformed, but its regime cannot. This is the main thrust of the problem. The goal of the North Korean regime is to bring the Korean Peninsula under the control of the totalitarian regime after the collapse of the South Korea–U.S. alliance and the withdrawal of the United States Forces Korea from South Korea.

We must not waste time. We must move forward with valor. We should not be fooled by the North. We must stay focused on the goal. Our goal is the complete dismantlement of nuclear weapons and the weapons of mass destruction. The only way to achieve this goal is to maintain the R.O.K.–U.S. alliance.



To go to the May 2019 ILC Schedule page, click here.