By Special Feature Editor Lee Sam-sun
It appears that it is going to be an all-new ball game—in the United States and the Republic of Korea (south). President-elect Joe Biden won a meaningful victory in the latest Presidential elections in the United States—putting an end to the administration in the U.S. led by his predecessor, Mr. Donald Trump.
Mr. Trump has long been considered a very unwelcome person among many people in Korea for a number of things, among which stands out his bombshell demand: South Korea must pay five-six times more than the present level of share of the defense cost to support the U.S. Forces stationed in Korea.
In the case of almost all his predecessors, the periodical increases in the cost of U.S. Forces in Korea to be borne by Korea have been somewhere around 10% at each time.
In contrast, Biden is viewed as a reasonable person who is expected to respect the principle and rules of his predecessors other than Trump, which have been honored through decades of years concerning the cost of U.S. Forces in Korea. Under the new leadership in the U.S., it appears that the relations and friendship between Korea and the U.S. will return to normalcy, which is a very welcome development for both Korea and the U.S.
The majority of Korean people seem to welcome the election of Joe Biden, and they include the influential leading Korean-language dailies in Korea. One example is the mass-circulated Korean-language daily, Dong-A Ilbo, which is noted for its brilliant history and position where it vows to “publish all the news without fear or favor!” A typical example is Gobau Yeonggam (Oldman Gobau) who foolhardily ridicules anyone and everyone who does not listen to the people, including the President of the Republic of Korea. Gobau got himself into trouble for ridiculing the then President Syngman Rhee, but, ultimately, got away with it—due to the overwhelming public support for him.
On November 9, Dong-A Ilbo published an editorial, which was to the following effect:
President-elect Joe Biden has declared that he will be a President who will seek not division but unity and harmony. Biden made the declaration shortly after his win was confirmed with a majority win over his predecessor, Mr. Trump.
President-elect Biden then said he will include COVID-19 control experts in the takeover group of administration from the former leadership.
The key point of the message of President-elect Biden is remedial action and recovery from the damages caused by the badly contagious disease, COVID-19, and the division and conflict caused by the recent development in the U.S., where Mr. Trump is not accepting the successful election of President-elect Biden.
The Korean government and the ruling camp, who somewhat appeared to be more in favor of Trump vis-a-viz Biden in contrast with the conservative-oriented opposition camp who are mostly pro-Biden, appear to be accepting the result of the Presidential elections in the U.S. where Biden won.
President Moon Jae-in wrote on his Twitter window on Nov. 8, 2020, “I have great expectations of advancing and opening up the future development of our bilateral relations. Katchi Kapshida (“Let’s Go Together!”).
Thus, President Moon congratulated Presidential Candidate Joe Biden for his scores larger than that of President Donald Trump. President Trump suspects that there have been errors in the vote-counting, but the general trends in the U.S. seem to be in favor of Biden’s successful election.
President Moon used his social media window to congratulate Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, his lady running mate.
Moon used the means of social media instead of formal diplomatic channel obviously out of consideration for President Donald Trump who is not yet accepting his defeat.
Moon is expected to seek to send an official congratulatory letter to Biden or have a telephone conversation with him after power transition process gets under way in the real earnest.
In fact, however, congratulating Biden in Korea on his successful election came much earlier by the Korean media, especially the conservative-oriented Korean-language dailies.
Another leading Korean-language daily, Chosun Ilbo, already indicated the victory of Biden two days earlier on November 6, and published an interesting editorial on that day. The editorial covered a situation involving South Korea, North Korea, the United States, China and other countries with interests in the Korean peninsula.
Contents of the editorial are viewed to substantially represent the views of the people in South Korea who are conservatively oriented and who are old enough to have actually experienced the dire days of the Korean people in the early 1960s when North Korea’s GNI was all but double that of the ROK in the south.
According to 2019 figures, now the per-capita GNI of the ROK is US$37,356,000 while that of NK is US$1,430,000. The amount of the South is 26 times larger than that of the North.
The biggest problem for the Korean people on the Korean peninsula (over 50 million in the ROK in the south and 25 million in NK) is the North Korean nuclear weapons which threaten the security and safety not only of the ROK but also the U.S. and many other countries of the world.
The best solution sought by the majority of the Korean people in the South and the peace-loving peoples around the world is the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
In the opinion of many people in the South, North Korea would enormously benefit from giving up its nuclear weapons as nuclear-free North Korea would be rewarded with massive economic assistance and support not from the ROK but also from the U.S. and the rest of the non-controlled economy countries of the world.
However, Chairman Kim Jong-un of the North would never give up the nuclear weapons for many reasons, which make it extremely difficult for the non-controlled economy countries.
In the opinion of conservatively minded people in the ROK, especially the generation of people who personally experienced the North Korean rule in the ROK during the first three months of the Korean War (June 27-Sept. 28, 1950), Chairman Kim of NK would never give up the nuclear weapons in exchange for economic prosperity.
They reason that economic development in the North would bring people much easier living and make them liberal-minded—with the passage of time to the degree enjoyed by people in the ROK.
In such an event, the people would not tolerate a one-man, dictatorial rule—such as that which is now forced upon them by the present ruling clique in the North.
In this situation, the North Korean leadership would want to continue possessing the nuclear weapons because abandonment of them could eventually lead to the collapse of the dictatorial rule in the North.
In any case, the new leaders in the U.S. government are welcomed in Korea more by conservatively oriented people vis-à-vis the reform-minded, progressive people who mostly run the incumbent government of President Moon.
In any case, it appears that the new government in the U.S. is more warmly received by conservative people in Korea compared with the progressively minded ones who substantially man the present government and the ruling circles.
The South Korean government of President Moon is expected to make amendment to his policies to the U.S., especially those related with North Korea.
The Moon government has been trying to improve relations with North Korea even before any meaning measures are taken by the North to reduce its nuclear weapons or abandoning them. And under the Trump administration in the U.S., this stance on the part of the South has not met with any serious resistance from the U.S.
However, this situation could face a challenge with the new government of President Biden.
In connection with this situation, another leading Korean-language daily expressed concern over the North Korea policy difference between South Korea and the U.S.
Joongang Ilbo on Nov. 8 introduced the view of Chairman Kim Jong-In of the Emergency Measures Committee of the main opposition People Power Party when the election of Biden became a surest bet.
said: “The incumbent Korean government of President Moon Jae-in does not want to do anything that would not please the leaders in North Korea. Such an attitude on the part of Moon and his government must change. If they do not change under the new environment, they would make themselves a target of ridicule.
According to Joongang Ilbo , Chairman Kim told the leading Korean-language daily: “President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Lee Nak-yon of the ruling Democratic Party again stressed the importance of ‘Declaration of the End of the Korean War’ and the ‘Korean Peninsular Peace Process’ related with it. This is truly a futile thing to do!” Here are excerpts from the view of Chairman Kim as reported by Joongang Ilbo:
Under the new government of President Biden in the United States, the South Korean government should substantially revise its North Korea policies. President-elect Biden will stress the importance of denuclearization of North Korea. Looking at the government of President Moon and the Democratic Party today, it appears that they are totally unprepared to the new government in the U.S.
The Moon government advocates a Korean peninsula peace process consisting of Declaration of the End of the Korean War. This is a ridiculous idea in view of the position of President-elect Biden and his new government in the U.S. This is because Biden has time and again stressed that North Korea must give up its nuclear armament first and then it could be followed by peace negotiations.
If the Moon government should continue to lopsidedly dream about a Declaration of the End of the Korean War, he will only make himself a target of ridicule.
“The Moon government does not want to say anything to the North Korean leaders which might not please their feelings. The Moon government remained silent even when the North Korean regime blew up the Inter-Korean Liaison Office building in Kaesong north of the Demilitarized Zone and when the North Korean Navy shot to death a South Korean government official. The Moon government is expected to substantially change this attitude when the Biden government starts in the U.S. The Biden government of the U.S. will not sit with North Korea if the meeting is not on the premise of North’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons. The Biden government will not have a summit with the North Korean leadership unless it is on the pre-condition of North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons.
On the possibility of his party’s sending a message to Biden, Kim said: “We are considering to do so at the time of the inauguration of President Biden. If any message is sent to him before then it would be one done only for the sake of formality. We hear that the Moon government is planning to send a visiting mission to the new leadership in the U.S., but I don’t think there is much meaning in it.”
On the role of the leaders of his party who have relationship with Biden, Kim said as follows:
“It is good to have such people in the party because they are important in preparing relations with the new U.S. government. However, I think that personal relationship is not that important compared with the reality where anything done from us must meet the interests of the U.S.”
Excerpts from an unofficial translation of Chosun Ilbo editorial, Nov. 6:
The Presidential elections in the United States have practically ended with Democratic Party Presidential Candidate Joe Biden (former U.S. Vice President) leading. The national security and prosperity are hinged on firm ROK-U.S. alliance.
The U.S. foreign policy for the past four years has been a complicated one filled with, and marred by, ‘loose-cannon’ actions and statements made by President Trump. Now this situation is expected to be amended and the bilateral relations are expected to return to the policy line of both sides who emphasize the importance of allies and free-economy system.
The method of denuclearization negotiations with North Korea used by President Trump, which is often called a ‘Reality Show,’ are expected to come under a review from the starting point.
President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea have been holding a so-called ‘Top-Down’ method of negotiations. In fact, however, it was not really for North Korea’s abandonment of its nuclear weapons.
President Trump needed a ‘show’ for use in his election. Both the South Korean government and the North Korean regime used the ‘Trump Show.’
all negotiations, the bottleneck is hidden in the details.
Summit meetings, which are held with an advance adjustment or settlement of differences between the two sides, are not really negotiations but a show only for the TV cameras.
The Biden government of the United States would be very much different, which would consist of way completely opposite to those of President Trump.
Biden would try to have working-level negotiations first and through them try to reach a final agreement. This is completely opposite to the way so far used by President Trump.
The surprise show between President Trump and Chairman Kim who has been taking advantage of Trump’s ignorance and vanity, is now over.
The (South Korean government) policy seeking a ‘Declaration of the End of the Korean War’ in spite of the fact that North Korea continues to increase its nuclear stockpile, has now come to an end. It has been like a car moving backward.
The preceding government of President Barack Obama pursued a North Korea policy which is predicated on a so-called ‘Strategic Patience.’ This policy, too, appears to have much room for improvement.
It is high time we gave up our expectations from the ‘Show’ with North Korea. We must try to begin a true negotiation with the North, which is practical and which has creative ideas that will actually bring the elimination of nuclear weapons from North Korea.
At the same time, we must try to improve our national security stance, including proper implementation of the ROK-U.S. combined military excises.
Biden has made it clear that if elected he will strengthen the U.S. containment of China and use a multilateralist policy through close cooperation and coordination with the U.S. allies.
If one defines Trump’s China policy as that for one-sidedly exerting pressure on China, Biden’s can be classified as a ‘combined pressure method’ to be used together with America’s traditional allies such as Korea, Japan and Europe.
The new method would not be limited to commerce and trade but broadly cover many other areas, including environment and human rights.
On this point, compared with Trump, Biden could be a much tougher customer for China as Biden more strongly adheres to the principle.
South Korea used to follow a ‘hedging policy’ between China and the U.S., working with China in economy and with the U.S. in national security. Under the new administration in the U.S., this just would not work. The new U.S. stance might demand that South Korea make a choice between the U.S. and China.
In June 2013, the then President Park Geun-hye met with President Xi Jinping in Beijing, China, and announced a ‘Korea-China Future Vision Joint Statement.’ In December the same year, the then Vice President Biden visited Korea and gave a warning, “It is not a good betting when you do it with a side that is opposed to the United States.”