|Moon Jung-in, special adviser to President Moon Jae-in, speaks during a recent seminar hosted by the National Committee on North Korea in Washington, D.C. / Yonhap|
By Oh Young-jin
Moon Jung-in, mentor to President Moon Jae-in on foreign and North Korea affairs, often previews Seoul’s policy.
Now under question is his remark in a seminar in Washington, D.C., to the effect that U.S. forces should leave Korea, if its president shows the door. The comment was made in the context of explaining the structure under which the U.S. has wartime control of ROK forces.
The U.S. is said to be resistant to changing the structure, which would make the U.S. general subordinate to the Korean general.
Some experts say the U.S. would rather leave Korea than have its troops under ROK command.
Last September, Moon, the honorary professor of Yonsei University, talked about delaying ROK-U.S. joint military exercises scheduled for March after the end of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.
The suggestion triggered great deal of fuss from the U.S. and domestic conservative critics, but the drills were put on hold.
The likelihood is that the drills would take place in April after the Paralympics are over. Of course, another delay is possible if either the North or the U.S. is more willing than the other to talk. The North wants the U.S. to recognize its near-nuclear-state status, while the U.S. wants Pyongyang to dismantle it. There is the rub.
Sending U.S. forces packing is a lot more complicated than delaying the joint drills.
But this does not weaken Moon Jung-in’s predictive force.
The two Moons are like two sides of the same coin (they are not related).
What he says about the North or the U.S., it is not just his thoughts _ he is the architect of Moon’s North Korea policy, which he formulated when he worked for the late President Roh Moo-hyun, for whom the President was a political alter ego and under whom he served as chief of staff.
Of course, Roh’s policy of playing the role of “balancer” or honest broker, is based on Kim Dae-jung’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Sunshine policy of engaging the North. Kim met Kim Jong-il, the late father of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, in June 2000, while Roh met him in 2007.
One only has to look at the modus operandi of President Moon in dealing with the U.S. and the North in the lead-up to, during and after the Olympics. He has accommodated high-level delegations from Washington and Pyongyang. He had pushed for their dialogue, asking them to lower their threshold for a meeting.
The North sent its dictator’s sister to the Games and asked Moon to visit the North. Moon passed the laurels to U.S. President Donald Trump for making the Peace Olympics possible. Now the U.S. is trying to show it is synchronizing with Seoul on its plan to send a presidential envoy to Pyongyang. If Moon again persuades Trump to postpone or cancel the exercises, he would gain a boost in confidence with which he will be able to persuade the North to come to the negotiating table.
Here, however, is the catch. Moon as honest broker works for his ultimate purpose: no war on the Korean Peninsula.
For this purpose to be realized, Moon could be less attached to the status quo, which includes a close alliance with the U.S.
That brings us back to the Moon Jung-in question: Would Moon ask the U.S. to pull out of Korea? He would try his best to avoid it, but I bet he would do so, if he had to.
Of course, it would not be as easy as a simple presidential decree. But it is important to note Moon’s willingness.
Having answered that question, here is a follow-up: if asked, would the U.S. leave? It once did without being asked before the 1950-1953 Korean War.
Perhaps the answer to this question would significantly affect Moon’s course of action.
The Korea Times tried to call Moon on his mobile but he didn’t answer.