Last week, the United States welcomed a new President, a new administration, and a new style of foreign policy under Joe Biden.
Countries are now working to recalculate their diplomatic relations with America, and among them is South Korea.
Seeking to restart the North Korea denuclearization agenda, after talks between former President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un hit a wall in 2018, it seems South Korea's top office is losing no time to engage the Biden administration to get the dialogue back on track.
A major reshuffle took place among Seoul's top-ranking diplomats,.. after Biden named his key foreign policy officials.
To discuss this and the latest we're hearing about North Korea, we have joining us today, Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Associate Professor of International Relations at Kings College London, and Dr. Kim Byoung-joo, Professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies here in Seoul.
1. Dr. Kim: Before we talk about the change of South Korea's top diplomats, there's been quite a lot of interest over how North Korea would implement a COVID-19 own vaccine rollout. Dr. Kim, how vulnerable do you think North Korea's health care system is to the COVID-19 virus, and why do you think Kim Jong-un has continued to refuse Seoul and Washington's offers to help?
2. Dr. Pacheco Pardo: How would vaccine distribution in North Korea look? We heard the regime showed interest in joining the global vaccine alliance, but how feasible is this and what kind of challenges would they face?
3. Dr. Pacheco Pardo: Of course, the regime strongly denies the country has been affected significantly by the pandemic. And when South Korea's foreign minister Kang Kyung-hwa in December said she doubted the North has zero COVID cases, she was hit with sharp criticism by the sister of dictator Kim Jong-un who said Kang will "pay dearly" for her remarks. Some speculated that this may have been one of the factors why Kang Kyung-hwa was replaced as Foreign Minister last week something Seoul's presidential office has denied. But whether that's true or false, most were expecting Kang Kyung-hwa to keep her job until the end of the current administration. What kind of change do you think President Moon Jae-in felt the foreign ministry needed, especially at this time of transition in U.S. politics?
Dr. Kim: You were policy counsellor and special assistant to the trade minister at the foreign ministry when Chung Eui-yong was the deputy minister for trade. As you can see from his profile, Chung has most recently been serving as the President's special advisor on national security and diplomacy. What do you think he's going to do differently from Kang Kyung-hwa that President Moon Jae-in really wants to see?
Dr. Pacheco Pardo: Chung Eui-yong headed the presidential delegation that coordinated the U.S.-North Korea summits in 2018. What would you say were his achievements and what role do you expect him to play over the next sixteen months of Moon's government? How will he get on with Washington officials?
Dr. Kim: Of course, to fill Chung's former position as a special advisor to the president, Kim Hyun-chong was tapped for the job. As you can see on his profile, Kim was the second deputy director of the National Security Office and before that, trade minister. What role do you expect Kim Hyun-chong to play and how do you see him getting along with Biden's foreign policy officials?
Dr. Kim It's seems the president wants everyone to focus on North Korea for the next 16 months. There's no question as to how important that is of course, but is South Korea's foreign policy focus right now too invested in North Korea and North America? Is there a need to branch out?
That was Dr. Ramon Pacheco Pardo, Associate Professor of International Relations at Kings College London, and Dr. Kim Byoung-joo, Professor at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies here in Seoul.
Thank you both for your time.