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World Ch. Schedule : TUE 22:30 KST

* Date : 2018-05-08

Foreign Correspondents Ep.85 - The first year of Moon Jae-in's presidency
Key words of President Moon Jae-in's first year in office

The Moon Jae-in government has passed the 1-year milestone since coming into power. The key words of the Moon administration can be summed up as "communication with the public", "restoration of summit diplomacy", and "fight against corruption". In his inauguration address, President Moon vowed to become a leader who speak to the public, and his moves to decentralize power have been a radical departure from his predecessors. Meanwhile, President Moon has also taken efforts to restore summit-level diplomacy that had been stuck in a vacuum for nearly 6 months. Following his summit with U.S. President Donald Trump last June, Moon also met with other world leaders in quick succession, while also attending multi-lateral summit events such as the G20 meeting and the UN General Assembly. On the domestic front, the Moon administration unveiled a roadmap containing its 100 key policy goals last July, which was headlined by a promise to fight corruption. An anti-corruption task force was created to aid in this effort, tackling fraudulent activities in all corners of South Korean society. We take a look back at President Moon Jae-in's first year in office to examine its key policies and the achievements that have been made in these efforts.

President Moon Jae-in's diplomacy and North Korea policy

From "The Great Negotiator" to "The Fixer", President Moon Jae-in has earned a variety of monikers from the foreign press, mostly a nod to his diplomatic savvy. The foreign media has focused its spotlight on the Moon Jae-in government's diplomacy and its efforts to bring stability on the Korean Peninsula, especially at a time when it's neighbors are being led by hardline figures, and with North Korea engaging in repeated provocations all throughout 2017. These efforts eventually bore fruit, with the successful hosting of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games with North Korea's participation in the event. The easing of tensions between the two Koreas eventually led to the first inter-Korean summit in 11 years on April 27, and in this this week's edition of "Foreign Correspondents", we sit down with our panel of journalists to take a look back at the first year of President Moon Jae-in's presidency.

Elise Hu, Asia Correspondent / NPR (United States)
Stanislav Variboda, Journalist / Itar-TASS (Russia)
Frank Smith, Correspondent / Press TV (Iran)

foreign correspondents
foreign correspondents
■ SM: Seo Misorang // ▷ FK: Frank // □ EL: Elise // ◇ ST: Stan

[00:02]■ SM: Hello and welcome back to foreign correspondents, I'm Seo Misorang with our panel of foreign journalists. Welcome to the program.
All: Thank you

■ SM: Now it's already been a year since president Moon Jae-in took office, he was torn in on May 10th of last year. So, how would you grade his performance? The Moon Jae-in administration's performance so far? Let's put it on a grade from A to F. A, fantastic, F, failure. What's your grade?

▷ FK: Well I'm gonna give uh president Moon uh maybe an A- or a B+. Certainly when we look at uh inter-Korean relations and his diplomatic initiatives that have taken place since since he was elected, that gets a high score, probably an A+. Domestically, there are some intransinent-intransigent issues uh here in South Korea that are gonna be much more difficult for him to tackle and he has faced some challenges on the domestic front for sure.

■ SM: Okay.

□ EL: I largely agree with Frank, he's been very impressive diplomatically um quite a statesman in this first year in office uh never giving up the efforts to get North Korea to come to the Olympics all throughout 2017, when there was no sign that they were interested, um and then culminating in the big inter-Korean summit that we saw in April 27th. Um, domestically, the issues with sort of chaebol being too par-too large a part of the economy um issues about uh politics within the country itself and in the legislature, that we're not seeing a whole lot of like quick progress on, what would we expect to. So, I would do the same, I would give him a solid B or a B+.

■ SM: Mmhmm, okay.

◇ ST: Yea, I agree. I would also give him a B+ or A-. Um he obviously did a good job with North Korea and he managed to successfully uh carry about the Olympic Games also. And uh I think even with the opposition from conservative forces, he's still doing quite a good job. So that's why it's a A-.

■ SM: Okay. So I think we're in some sort of agreement, A- or a B+. Alright, this week on Foreign Correspondents we'll take a comprehensive look at the first 12 months of Moon Jae-in's presidency. What was achieved, what was left wanting, and how it compares to the administration's prior.

[02:19]■ SM: So president Moon came into office after winning a rare presidential by-election caused by the austere of then president Park Keun-hye. When the Moon administration first came into power, what were your expectations of it?
□ EL: Uh I was expecting a lot more competency that we-than we had seen with the Park administration, because if you recall by the end of the Park administration what we saw was a lot of just intransigence from her, refusing to step down despite all this evidence against her and pressure for her to resign and so there were-there wasn't really policy being achieved, there was a sense that you know people were just waiting and anticipating for her to move on. So when Moon came in, it seemed like a large relief and a sense that ‘hey, government can start proceeding as it was before' and he came in on a real pledge to deal with the past and kind of finish this prosecution of his predecessor, but also um to be a lot more tra-uh transparent as an administration and I thought that those were some good opening steps in his first 100 days.

■ SM: Right, does that echo your expectations Stan?

◇ ST: Uh yea, generally I agree with that. Uh besides, I also expect that him to deal with North Korean issue more actively, and uh it didn't look like it was this uh North Korean issue was progressing last year otherwise, uh more was like regress, but uh since this new year, I have to give my compliments to Mr. Moon uh he did a fantastic job.

■ SM: Right, okay. And Frank, do you think the Moon administration met your expectations for it?

▷ FK: Well I think it exceeded my expectations on on some uh fronts especially with North Korea as Stan mentioned, last year the animosity between especially uh US president Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was kind of unprecedent, we had war like rhetoric exchange between the two, we're worried about there potentially being a nuclear war on the Korean peninsula and you saw um South Korean president Moon really step in and continue to pursue engagement with North Korea despite uh these problems between the US president and the North Korean leader and that really paved the way for again as as we've mentioned f-for North Korea to attend the Olympics, for rapprochement on the Korean peninsula between North and South and then for potential summit uh between uh Kim and and Donald Trump.

■ SM: MMhmm, okay. And now comparing the Moon administration to the ones previous, for example the Park Keun-hye administration or the Lee Myung-bak administration, what do you think is the biggest difference between those two and the current administration?

□ EL: Well, political leaning of course. I mean uh we had almost 10 years of conservative presidents um which in some ways have aligned better with America because American policies have been very pro-alliance and that tends to favor the conservatives in South Korea. Um so for the first time in a long time we're seeing a progressive administration that really favors an engagement policy and that's already paid off.

■ SM: Mmhmm, what about other apart from political leanings?

◇ ST: It looks like there uh Moon administration is far more transparent and they try to uh indulge the people of the country and uh maybe it sounds a little bit populistic, but uh uh I see that president Moon is leading towards people, he's trying hard to prove that he is, he came to power to protect the uh usual people of the country and not the chaebol's interests, and not the rich people's interest.

▷ FK: Yea, I think really we can't get away from the you know, political orientation you had, I guess almost 10 years of conservative rule here in South Korea and what you have now is a president that's I think quite a bit more transparent and more of a man of the people both in terms of being more of a liberal and in terms of his own kind of public persona in identifying more with uh common South Koreans.

[06:24] ■ SM: Okay. Now in terms of his public persona, or in terms of what he has achieved so far, are there any politicians from your respective countries that resemble, that remind you of president Moon?

◇ ST: Well um, Moon certainly resembles me a little bit of uh Mikhail Gorbachev uh who was leading also this open policy you know after uh he was quite progressive for that time and uh after all those people the secretary general of the communist parties that uh have been before him, uh he certainly looked uh refreshing and new and he uh took the position of rapprochement with the West and in this case we see the rapprochement with North Korea.

■ SM: Right. What about from the US?

□ EL: Um, Jim Baker is an example. Jim Baker was a longtime Whitehouse chief of staff under not just Reagan, but also Bush 41, Bush, George H W Bush and he's one of those chiefs of staff who really ran the Whitehouse and is seen as a statesman and um I'm actually pretty sure he served as secretary of state as well now that I think about it, he has so many different roles in the different republican administration, but is respected by both parties and somebody um who is just seen as exceedingly competent, an excellent manager, somebody who um knows how government and levers of government work and I see that in Moon Jae-in, in that he used to be presidential chief of staff and is now bringing a lot of what um history and context he knows from that period to his job in order to be effective and so uh I can see some parallels there.

■ SM: Now if we break uh Moon's policy into groups, so in different headings such as security, um diplomacies, economy, and so on, which one particular area do you think they were the most successful in?

▷ FK: Uh, I think obviously diplomacy uh you know I mean arranging the summit, having the summit go off is such a success, bringing North Korea obviously to the Olympics and and moving that through from the time he was elected to to now and basically putting a US North Korea summit on the doorstep of of two very controversial kind of unpredictable leaders was a an extraordinary accomplishment.

■ SM: Diplomacy, would you agree Elise?

□ EL: Yes, i-I-uh of course that stands out and um you know I should point out that with the trade with regard, you know regarding the trade issues, things haven't gotten as bad as they could have gotten um with the United States and China did relax a lot of its unofficial sanctions on South Korea um over that, so you know the economy remains stable here overall all the trends are you know generally consistent and so I think that's something that we talked about less, but also is okay you know, there's obviously challenges ahead like the labor market which I hope that the administration spends more time addressing.

■ SM: Mmhmm, and if we zoom in further into individual events, are there any events that stand out for you in terms of uh being a crowning moment for the Moon Jae-in administration.

◇ ST: Well, that would be of course the inter-Korean summit in the first place. Uh just within 1 year, it hasn't even been uh 1 year since Moon Jae-in came to power and uh to arrange such a huge like historic event uh is really deserves uh big credit.

▷ FK: Yea, if we look back I mean in the Kim Dae-joong administration and Roh Mu-hyun administration, those summits, with North Korean leader Kim Jong-il took place at the very end of their terms. In particular, the Roh Mu-hyun administration's meeting, I don't feel that President Roh really had much of a mandate for the agreement that was made with uh North Korea and that agreement was really kind of really cast off when uh Lee Myung-bak, a conservative uh took over here in South Korea and really sought to disband even the the unification ministry, so this really is a different opportunity I feel the South Korean president has just within the first year having this meeting, he still got 4 years left to move forward with uh inter-Korean engagement and also hopefully address some of the other more challenging issues here in uh South Korea.

[10:44]■ SM: Okay. Now let's change the tune a bit. What are some negatives, what are some things that could've been done better and should be done better in the coming 4 years?

□ EL: Yea, there needs to be a much much much faster and aggressive action when it comes to the um imbalance the general disparity in this country, because you have half of the population that could be contributing to the economy, not working at full employment um and as a result there's a huge GDP cost and a cost to the birthrate you know South Korea's birth rate is the lowest in industrialized nations and that has to be solved very very quickly or addressed very quickly because, you know otherwise, South Korea will eventually go extinct I think by 2700 and so um I-I'd love to see more progress on that front, but also um another urgent issue of course is pollution and um the matter of South Korea being able to control a lot of the bad air in this country you know again and again China gets blamed, but the most recent and most accurate modelling or extensive modelling from NASA partnered with Korean scientists indicates that more than half of South Korea's pollution is home grown, which means that means South Korea can do something about it um and action on that should be fast too to reduce health costs in the future.

■ SM: Okay, alright. Perhaps 2 of the biggest achievements made by the Moon administration so far are the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and the inter-Korean summit and for those 2 events to have taken place, the government had to continuously negotiate not only with Pyongyang, but also with its regional powers. So in this next clip, we'll take a look at president Moon Jae-in's diplomacy as well as North Korea policy.

[12:33]■ SM: Okay Stan, has president Moon proved himself to be a shrewd diplomat in your opinion?

◇ ST: Um yea obviously. Uh as I have already mentioned he managed to do a fantastic job with North Korea. Uh managing to organize the summit uh with the North Korean leader and also he did a a really good communication with uh United States' president so I think without his uh consent uh there would not have been such a possibility uh so yea, I think we could call him a true diplomat yea he he did a fantastic job, but we also have to credit uh Kim Jong-un because he was actually the first one to offer the this olive branch as they call to the South.

■ SM: Okay. Now as we saw in the video, the foreign media have called uh president Moon Jae-in by many monikers including, I'll read you some of them, the negotiator, the mediator, and the master deal maker. Do you think he's earned these nicknames? Do you think he deserves to be called these nicknames?

□ EL: Sure, I mean these these are like just headlines for magazines and things like that you can you can be called all sorts of different things, it doesn't really um stick unless people buy the brand right? Like they they buy into that idea, and so you know, to the extent that his his constituency is supportive and it's extremely supportive right? His popularity is again, in its 80s following the inter-Korean summit, so why not?

■ SM: Why not? Okay. Do you have any other ideas for possible monikers?

▷ FK: I don't know, I thought of one just uh earlier. Summit man maybe would be a good one because he's arranged these these uh summits with uh the North Korean leader, but uh again I think there were really some ch-really challenging issues last year. I mean we were really talking about war on the Korean peninsula and also the president of the United States is is a relative conservative and managing him in the way that was all orchestrated to pursue engagement with North Korea when the US really was so um set on a very hostile policy and you know from hardline toward North Korea and managing to get a a summit is a-an extraordinary achievement.

■ SM: Mmhmm, okay. Now aside from the obvious inter-Korean summit and moments leading up to the inter-Korean summit, are there any moments that stand out for you in terms of d-uh president Moon being able to display his diplomatic prowess?

□ EL: Well, the Olympics for sure. I mean, what you can't really separate one thing from the other right? Everything builds on itself and ever-nothing is divorced from the context that it's in. So what Moon and the administration was seeking to do in from the beginning was try and get North Korea to participate in the Olympics in order to tamp down any sort of threat um or the fears of people from coming to South Korea because of North Korea, but then also, to have these moments where there was an evidence of symbolic unity and to feel the team together, to to walk in together at the opening ceremony, all of that imagery was really important, not only in terms of sports diplomacy, but in order to build onto the next steps they wanted to take with North Korea.

[15:48]■ SM: Mmhmm, okay. And now let's focus on the North Korean policy. Uh what's your overall assessment of the Moon administration's North Korea policy because his two track approach had a lot of criticism up until last year?

◇ ST: Well after all, we can see that this two track approach have suc-succeeded. Um and I do not really see much of the resistance now from uh uh from his critics like uh from the conservative opposition, I mean they still do criticize him, but uh these critics uh are toned down much more than it has been before. Um obviously the summit, inter-Korean summit played a huge role in that and we can see that uh president Moon support uh have jumped like 8 or 9 percent last week and uh it's interesting to see because usually when the there are elections um in the country, the population is usually split like half uh 50-50, 50 percent for conservatives and 50 for liberals, but uh this time, I see that people are more leaning to like the progressive side to to support president Moon.

■ SM: Okay. Now you touched upon this with the opposition party uh sort of dialing back down on their criticism, some of the foreign media reports that a lot of the important details were missing from the Panmunjom declaration, that it wasn't comprehensive enough.

▷ FK: Okay I I I don't agree with that. I think that he got as much he could out of it and that it was appropriate if he had to put something in there on human rights, if he had to put something definitive about denuclearization, Kim Jong-un wouldn't have signed it. I don't, I don't feel he-he would've signed it. So, then you would've had some sort of diplomatic issue and problem right? But there was one point, it was the 13th of I think 13 points on the declaration, it did mention denuclearization, that was on the agenda, it was discussed, it is the primary focal point of a potential Kim Trump summit. So I think he did as as well as he could with that. They're awlays gonna be, this is kind of a worry that I have that you have with the 6 party talks, that other issues would encroach upon uh inter-Korean relations and North Korea, US, North Korea international rapprochement. Other countries will wanna get uh their sort of issues dealt with with North Korea, whether it's Japanese abductees, South Korean abductees, human rights American abductees, which I think will actually be released with uh uh Kim Trump summit. But those other issues can then sort of add to the diplomatic challenges of getting denuclearization done and my feeling is or you know my advice would be get that denuclearization done, engage North Korea and then work forward on those other issues through engagement.

[18:48] ■ SM: Okay, okay. Alright we'll have to wrap up there, but final comments regarding where we go from here? There are still 4 more years left, what do you expect from the government?

◇ ST: Uh, I expect them to continue the current policies. So I expect more engagement with North Korea, I expect uh maybe closer alliance with the United States in terms uh in view of this North Korean issue also um I expect some outstanding uh social issues to be settled finally such as unemployment and poor birth rate of course the birthrate you cannot solve that question just within 4 years, but at least you can lay ground for that, uh that's what I would expect.

■ SM: Okay, and Elise, final comments?

□ EL: Yea, I mean so much rests on what happens with the US uh North Korea summit right now in terms of where things go for South Korea that will u-undoubtedly affect the US South Korea alliance especially if there really can be a peace treaty. Because if there can be a peace treaty, then America doesn't need to have all these forward deployed troops on the border you know and so there's a lot of successive questions that could come out of that.

▷ FK: That's interesting you just echoed like the latest sort of controversy of uh uh South Korean presidential advisor mentioning in uh an opt-head or column that he wrote and then the Blue House having to defend that and say they wanted t-to keep the troops here, but I agree you know, if there is a peace treaty uh it (EL: Why are you still positioned for war) Right. Why are you why are you still positioned for war, it doesn't justify the same the same troop levels here in South Korea. 85 percent approval rating, I don't know if he's gonna be able to hang onto that for for another 4 years, but I do hope he he gets to the other issues that are challenging for South Korea.

■ SM: Okay Alright. We'll have to wrap up there, thank you for sharing your opinion and thoughts. Thank you
All: thank you
■ SM: Aright. President Moon Jae-in's first 12 months was a year with several crisis and difficulty, but also a year filled with stunning achievements and significant milestones and with 4 years still left, we hope the Moon administration will continue paving the way for even better Korea. That's all the time we have for today thank you for tuning in and good bye.

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