* Date : 2018-04-24
The 2018 inter-Korean summit is scheduled to be held on April 27 and it will be shown live all over the world. On April 18, South and North Korean officials held working level talks and agreed to broadcast major events at the summit on live feeds. Also, in addition to denuclearization, a formal peace treaty to end the Korean War has also been brought up as one of the summit agendas, further capturing the attention of the global news audience. Roughly 2,800 local and foreign journalists have registered to cover the summit, which is nearly double the number of press personnel seen during the 2nd inter-Korean summit in 2007, which numbered around 1,400. Amid the high-running interest in the latest meeting, a renewed spotlight has been cast on the two previous summits as well. The most notable change has been the venue, with the third inter-Korean summit being held at the "Peace House" in the Southern side of Panmunjom, as opposed to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang. This would mark the first time a North Korean leader has ever stepped foot on South Korean territory. There are also a number of other key differences between the 2018 inter-Korean summit and the two previous summits in 2000 and 2007, and we'll be exploring those details with our panel of journalists in this week's edition of "Foreign Correspondents".
Matt Stiles, Journalist / Los Angeles Times
Frédéric Ojardias, Correspondent / Radio France Internationale
Fabian Kretschmer, Journalist / Deutsche Welle
■ SM: Hello and welcome back to Foreign Correspondents I'm Seo Misorang with our panel of foreign journalists. Welcome to the program.
[00:07]■SM: The 2018 inter-Korean summit is just around the corner. It will be held this Friday and the slogan for it is ‘peace and a new beginning.' Do you think this is a fitting title?
△ MT: I think so, I mean in many ways you can pick a lot of these sort of generic titles for this um this type of event. T-This one's vague enough where anything can be wedged into it, but peace and a new beginning sounds like a realistic goal um and it it's a soft sounding uh soothing kind of slogan so it seems fine to me
■ SM: Okay
○FD: Yeah totally agree with Matt. I mean I-I'm not sure summit needs a slogan, but if you have to choose one, I think it's a perfect one because there is a word peace in it and as you said, it's vague enough to include many important things so
■ SM: Okay
◇ FV: I like the part uh new beginning because the conflict was so deadlocked, and you know both sides were accusing each other of let's say the west side you cannot negotiate with North Korea it's a waste of time, they will cheat you and North Korea also has some reason to be like concerned or paranoid about their security and so I think it's good to say like let's erase the the memories, let's start it new and give it a new try
■ SM: Alright. With just 3 days remaining, this week on Foreign Correspondents, the topic is preview for the April 27thMoon-Kim summit.
[01:20] ■SM: So as a journalist, how do you usually prepare for such a huge uh news event like this?
◇ FV: I mean of course I follow news um like doesn't matter if it's big news there or not so that's that's a given but um what Iwould do over the next few um days, I would prepare my mysources my the North Korea experts South Korea experts umto get them ready that I can just call them because on this news day it's very hectic so you want to make sure that everything is prepared
■ SM: Right. Now if you had the chance to hold a QnA session with president Moon Jae In and Kim Jong Un straight after the summit, what are some questions that you might ask?
△ MT: Well, I guess it would depend on what they discussed at the summit or what news we learned about the summit, but Ithink definitely an interview with Kim would be more interesting than with Moon who's relatively transparent about his thinking, I would love to ask Kim some very straightforward questions about what his intentions are for his country, for his economy, for his place on the world stage and for his you know th-th-the Kim dynasty and how long that he foresees that uh you know is part of being North Korean life.
■ SM: So the two Koreas they held several working level talks in the run-up to the summit, what are some issues do you think that might've been the most difficult to reach an agreement on?
○ FD: I mean there is many issues, for example, press coverage. How much do we allow the press to cover the the summit uh what through how do Kim Jong Un will arrive, does he arrive by car, by walking, through which path, when do we take the picture I mean I'm sure they will want to have a symbolic picture to take. Uh we remember uh in the 2000 summit, when uh Kim Dae Joong when he go down the plane and Kim Jong Il was waiting for him so I'm sure they want some optics that's important for them. Uh, there will be the issue of security of course both leaders want to have the highest security so all these issues are very important and that's why it takes so much time to prepare a summit.
■ SM: Right, Right. Now going back to North Korea, in April 14th, that was the North Korean founder Kim Il Sung's birthday, which is usually celebrated in Pyong-yang with great fan-fare, but this year, it was surprisingly low-key, do you think they were being careful ahead of the summit?
○FD: Oh yea definitely, that's obvious there. And these days, uh North Korea doesn't mention very often the nu- even never, the North Korean media don't don't mention the nuclear uh weapons uh when South Korea and US organize a military exercise, they did not criticize it. I mean we really see that they are restrain they are and I think they're really trying to avoid any conflict to to allow the summit to to take place. It's striking actually.
■ SM: Okay.
△ MT: I think you see that also on the US and South Korean side. Um, you know, a little bit at the beginning of the Olympics there was um conflict going on where people were questioning this and that, but since then, you've seen like with the exercises for example the military exercises, they were not really formally announced and the media coverage has not been really uh invited on that strongly, and so you're seeing restraint, and I think even a little bit of restraint from Washington like trying to think back to the tweets but I don't think that Donald trump has said anything incendiary uh about Kim uh you know uh during this the last few months, so yeawhere I think we're seeing everyone try to set an environment that will be conducive to a positive summit.
◇ FV: Yea if I can add something, I remember during uh um a gathering, Trump mentioned Kim Jong Un, the people started to boo Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump asked them not to no no no respect. That was striking
[04:48]■ SM: Yea I was quite surprised by that as well yea. Then how do you ride the possibility of Kim Jong Un, throwing a surprise on the day of the summit, for example not turning up on time or abruptly changing plans?
△ MT: Th-that's always a possibility. G-given what happens between now and then, how these continuing working level talks you know that may or may not be happening in the background if there's a convoy that goes uh how those discussions go and then you remember back to previous summits, there was a flood in uh at one summit I believe in 2007 summit so it was delayed for a few days so anything's possible but I I would be surprised if there was something that was done by him that would be perceived as provocative th-that was done in a way to sleight Moon or the process
■ SM: Intentionally? Right okay. Now let's talk about the website. So the South Korean uh summit-prepatory committee, they set up an online platform where you can get background information and on-going updates on the summit. Did you have a look at the website?
△ MT: I did yea. I mean I I it seems to me that uh perfectly fine idea
■ SM: mmhmm, what was your impression?
◇FV: I think um the government is very careful not to repeat uh the mistake of the previous government which was basically a total lack of communication lack of transparency and you see this in many aspects that you know for example also with the foreign media the the minister say will spend much more timein uh for QnA sessions and there's much more willingness to communicate and of course also to the public and I think yea it's it's important and it's um I think it's a good idea yea.
■ SM: Right, so you think it's part of the Moon administration's uh initiative to communicate more (FC: Yea definitely) with the public. I think it will be also very useful for those who are not well versed in North Korean politics, but uh nonethelessinterested in the upcoming summit. What was your impression?
○ FD: No, I think its uh it's a good idea too. To raise- the more transparent the better right? I'm not too sure for the general public how much will really have access how much will really try to use this website to get information I think most of the public will go on Naver or check news as usual, but as a journalist, it's great to have a homepage where you can see have some pictures, have some videos, and updates. Yea it's a it's a excellent initiative.
■ SM: Right. And also on the website, there'll be ongoing livestream footage. Do you think this will be of use to thepublic? The general public?
△ MT: Perhaps. I mean we've seen from just what we understand about the Korean public's expectation of their media that livestreaming uh events is is part of part of the process we've seen caravans of vehicles to taking people to jail that um where news reporter are following behind on a motorcycle with a you know television camera uh so there's gonna be some expectation that they'll be able to follow things in real time. Now, getting back to the protocol and the discussions at the working level, what what those images will be remain to be seen I think.
■ SM: Now this upcoming summit isn't the first one, it's the third one. There were ones held previously on 2000 and 2007 so in this upcoming clip, we'll take a look at how the upcoming Friday summit will compare to the ones held in the prior
[07:50]■ SM: So what's your overall assessment of the two previous summits, the ones held in 2000 and 2007?
○ FD: I know some some there were criticized by maybe the most conservative element in South Korean society, but they were really important for at least one aspect that allowed to reduce the tensions. Something that worries me about Kor-two Koreas is if conflict or war happens, some it might be triggered by some accident it might be some escalation trigger by uh uh som-and this kind of a summit when you you build trust, you really really reduce the risk of war. So of course this summit did not prevent North Korea to to continue it's nuclear program but I think it contributed to to slow this program, it contributed to open the North Korean economy, it contributed to to bring information from the outside to North Korea so they were important in so many aspects. So I'm very happy that we see another summit coming and I have a lot of expectations on how that can change the dynamics between the two Korea and hopefully open the north.
◇FV: I want to add one more thing. You know after talking to many South Koreans over specific generation let's say in their 30s, for them, the previous summits, they were really turning point in how they perceive North Korea. I mean that's a generation still in elementary school had a very strong anti-communist education and uh some thought of uh you know North Koreans as red devils and not really as a real person and you know after the summits, they became more relaxed and more um you know not demonizing everything that's from the North anymore and um in that regard I think helped a lot to reduce tensions.
■ SM: Right
○ FD: And some images are memorable. Like maybe images of Kim Jong- Kim Dae Joong and Kim Jong Il shaking hands. I remember I was a when I was a tuniverse(?) in South Korea this image was a there was a huge poster in some rooms. It was very important for everybody, the image of Roh Muhyun when he crossed the the border by foot to go to North Korea, that was some very memorable moment.
■ SM: Yea, now let's move on to president Moon Jae In. So President Moon Jae In was able to secure a meeting with the North Korean leader in less than a month since taking office. Why do you think, or how do you think he was able to get the ball moving so quickly?
△ MT: Well you know from the start even during the campaign, he seemed to to signal that he'd be a different kind of a leader, be willing to say no to the United States, be be eager to seek dialogues, so that set the environment where uh you know a-an overture of could be accepted. And then I think the Olympics and also the fact that North Korea had gotten to a place where it was pretty confident with it's nuclear program um is really what got us to this place. As opposed to Moon's diplomatic efforts, though certainly he deserve credit and the unpredictability of Trump deserves some credit uh in in getting us to this place you guys may disagree.
◇ FV: No no, actually I don't. I mean I think it's obvious that I-I'm not a fan of Trump it's just opposite, but I think in this you know for the his Korea policy, I changed my mind and I changed my opinion. I think um without Trump, uh probably wouldn't be at this point, but I think the most interesting or tragic period of Moon was when he you know just got into office and there was exactly you could feel his his good will and intention and you know for all his political career he has been fighting for for warming up the relations uh maybe uh a reunification, but then Kim Jong Un tested missiles in a speed that was never seen before, Trump was as provocative uh as as never before and then you know South Korea actually wanted to change things was again, it was not in the driver's driving seat, but there was like an extra in a thing that they couldn't control, but how he-how Moon Jae In helped turning around things was pretty impressive I would say
[11:30]■SM: So do you think his role uh President Moon Jae Inrole in turning things around and um setting up these 2 summits, he is now back in the driver's seat?
◇ FV: Yea, I mean as much as in the driver's seat as he can be in this conflict of course it's it's a geopolitical conflict that you cannot blend out the the regional powers, you can't blend out China or the US or or even Russia. So um, but yea I think nowum I think this summit is really important actually to to also let the public in in the world like know that it's it's a conflict mainly be-between those two Koreas even though of courseNorth Korea um wants peace treaty with the US uh so they cannot solve this conflict on their own but they should be the driving force I would say.
○ FD: And I think uh the way he managed to get a summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un is absolutely I think that it's major diplomatic skill there uh and as you mentioned I mean I think it wouldn't have happened so fast without Donald Trump policy of uh strong pressure and I think the the threat of a military strike I think that scared everybody and that's so that's why everything the process is going so fast now, but that's I don't want to deny Moon Jae In‘s
△ MT: Uh and then just one last thing on that too. Moon kept faith despite what you were talking about with the repeated provocations and the sparring that was going on between North Korea and the US and the criticism he was getting in the media even at the beginning of the Olympics his numbers started to go down, he kept the faith and he deserves some credit for that I think he also deserves credit for maybe exaggerating a bit when he praised Trump um I think he saw that that if anything that he's done was a diplomatic um smart diplomatic move that that was probably the smartest.
◇ FV: You have to please his ego right? Yea
■ SM: Alright, and do you believe the outcome of the summit will have a significant barring on Moon's approval ratings?
◇ FV: That's a good question. I mean of course at least his uhpolitical opponents will watch very closely and um on every mistake that he does and they will try to make like political capital out of it. But, let's be honest um Moon's approval rating was far more influenced on on when he talked about banning cryptocurrency than actually what he did with North Korea and he was uh in the first place he was uh elected um you know to solve issues like the you know like th-the chaebol problem like I mean the unregulated chaebols, the social inequality, the the high level of irregular workers in the growing social inequality and so I think yea of course that'll affect his approval ratings, but not really not as much as many people in the West would believe for example.
■ SM: mmhmm, so you don't think it's as significant of an issue compared to other issues that you've already mentioned.
◇ FV: I mean if it doesn't do any major mistakes, let's say if there would be a scandal like the the the the previous summit that you know there would be like some cash flow going through North Korea and I think Moon Jae In is aware that this would cost him his political career, but other than that, I think he should be fine.
■ SM: Mmhmm, do you agree?
○ FD: Yes totally. Uh there is I mean I think maybe as a media we've focused too much on the approval ratings. I don't think it matters that much actually especially in the case of Moon Jae In where his approval rating is already spectacularly highso a small variation that could be provoked by many factors as Favian mentioned not only the summit so it doesn't matter so much. Uh I mean as you said what matters is he doesn't make any huge political mistake I think it's important and as you mentioned before that during the summit everybody will look at what Moon Jae In can get from Kim Jong Un without giving I mean giving major consation first. And I think I think he's uh skillful enough not to make that type of mistake but once again the approval rating doesn't matter so much actually
[15:18]■ SM: Well then continuing on from Favian's uh answer what kind of scenario would lead to a significant jump in his approval rating or a significant decline?
○ FD: I mean a significant jump would be uh Kim Jong Unmaking a major officially making a consation and allow to to to move the process forward and a major mistake could be I mean I remember the some during the Ro Muhyun summit, there were some scandal related to some promises he made some declaration he made related to the maritime borderline. So I think this kind of stuff Moon Jae In has to be very careful but I think he's good enough to avoid this kind of mistake now.
■ SM: So you think he's very well aware. Aware enough to avoid the risks?
○ FD: I mean he was he was working with Roh Muhyun during the second summit so I think he's extremely aware.
△ MT: Yea, I agree. I think the big difficulty for South Korean presidents in the past in terms of their approval has been personal political scandal and the economy and those are outside of uh often the president's control and um in some ways and this summit won't fit into that category. I think one way he could get into trouble outside of the policy questions about what's determined, what's the outcome, what happens with trump next is if there are things that aren't transparent, there are secret deals, money exchanges, things that could th-they fit into the narrative that so frustrated the public about Park Keun-hye. So I think he will try to avoid anything that can can be perceived that way.
○ FD: And I'm a bit tired of the dictatorship of powers. I mean, he's the president for the next four years so he has to pursue his vision, he has to he has a policy to do, he has a job to do, so whether like little fluctuation in his approval rating should not matter so much and if it if he spend his days working at the approval rating and taking his decisions on that, you go nowhere. He really has to follow his vision and I think that's what he's doing.
■ SM: Right, I think to achieve something you need to be somewhat deaf to uh opinions from time to time. So going forward from here, what kind of steps do you think the Moon Jae In administration needs to take in order to build upon the summit and make further inroad into improving cross-borderrelations?
△ MT: So Moon has to manage his relationship with Trump um and the expectations that Trump is gonna have about uh about his meeting and talking about being in the driver's seat and Trump let let the South Koreans announce the his own summit, so uh seems like Moon's done a pretty good job in managing that relationship. The other will be just managing public uh expectation here.
○ FD: And I hope that they will come up with creative ways to build trust between the two Koreas, I remember this project couple years ago of building a peace park in the DMZ. I mean why not train some measure to reduce the level of armament on the both side of the boarder. I-I-I don't know I really hopethat this kind of uh dialogue allows some solution that nobody thought of and I'm sure there's many i-many ways to to reduce once again reduce tension, build trust between the two Koreas and open borders.
◇ FV: Yea, I think now it's important to really keep the communication going and I mean there're also many humanitarian exchange-exchanges that you can do, or also academic exchanges for example I mean there are many extinct bird species on both sides of the peninsula, you could work on that, there's they are for example some linguist like um uh people who work on a on a so called unified uh dictionary cause both of the languages they they uh separatedalso during the last uh uh six or seven decades so I think there are many things that you can do and um th-the communication channels should not like um break off um I think they should be steady.
[18:53]■SM: mmhmm, so keep the communication channels open and um more uh products of cultural exchanges between the two Koreas.
○ FD: Yea, and that is why the hotline that will be established between direct the direct hotline between Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae In is a very encouraging too.
■ SM: Right. Do you have any final comments?
△MT: Well as you mentioned the hotline, yes that's one thing um that's as historic as it's going to be, at the end of it, will they use that hotline? And will will they will they have personal charisma and will they establish trust and and you know and how will that affect the relation going forward that to me is interesting getting back to the very beginning of our discussion, if what what would you ask, ask about their personal rapport and that could go a long way. So I'm hopingthat maybe we get some some imagery of the interaction between them so we can judge that a little.
■ SM: Okay, Favian, do you have any final comments?
◇ FV: Well um uh I don't want to end too pessimistically, um actually we all are euphoric about the possibility that peace is finally at least um you can think of it in on the on the midterm, it's possible, but I think we're definitely on a crossroad. The status quo will not remain, but if the talks fail Ithink I mean it could go either way, but of course I hope for the best yea.
■ SM: Okay, Fred?
○ FD: Yea, I'm a pessimistic person, I agree with you. Anyways that would be a really historic moment and it's uh as a journalist it's a privilege to be able to cover it directly. I'm I'm very excited.
■ SM: You know, we were just talking before the show that as a foreign journalist perhaps anywhere compared to anywhere else in the world, Korea's the best place, because that's where all the news is happening right now. Okay that's for all thetime we have for today. We'll have to wrap up there, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with us,
All: Thank you
■ SM: As I mentioned earlier, the slogan for 2018 inter-Korean summit is peace and a new beginning, so hopefully, this once in a lifetime opportunity will bring about a new beginning: a season of peace not just for Korea, but for the world at large. That's all the time we have for today, thank you for tuning in and good bye.