Moon Jae-in Is Getting Tired of North Korea's Growing Aggression
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President Moon Jae-in is tired of taking abuse from the north - and he's starting to lose patience.
The South Korean president has done everything in his power to keep a cool head. He has shown stoicism and a practically unlimited calm, despite North Korea's increasingly bold antics. When Kim Jong-un's sister, Kim Yo-jong, ordered the telephone lines to be separated between North and South Korean officials, Seoul took a balanced stance and tried to stay ahead of the fight. "(We) cannot allow the promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula that I and chairman Kim Jong-un made to 80 million Koreans to return," Moon told reporters on June 15.
When Pyongyang tore down the inter-Korean liaison office this week and published pictures showing the modern glass building in a pile of smoke, dust, and reinforcement, the moon administration kept its rhetorical fire at bay and expressed its disappointment at the sudden turn of events. Moon has reportedly even sent two of his senior officials on a shuttle diplomacy mission with the North to stop the spiraling escalation cycle before he got out of control. This attempt was secretly rejected by Pyongyang and laughed at by Kim Yo-jong as a "tactless and uncanny proposal". The Kim regime's message to the moon administration: drop dead.
The Blue House has shown remarkable reluctance. But there is only so much that you can take before throwing patience out of the window and getting up for yourself. "We will no longer tolerate the North's unreasonable words and actions," said a South Korean president's spokesman for younger Kim's diatribes. The South Korean military is also uneasy - hours after the General Staff of the Korean People's Army released guidelines that nullified the last pillars of the 2018 Inter-Korean Military Agreement, the head of operations of South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff Pyongyang warned slightly of the move. "These steps frustrate South and North Korea's decades of efforts to improve relations between Korea and maintain peace on the Korean Peninsula," Jeon Dong-jin Preis said. "
These are not the words you hear from the moon government. Moon himself was extremely careful with his words - perhaps because of a mistake. Aidan Foster-Carter of Leeds University said more than a year ago: "Turning the other cheek is a Christian virtue, but politically it sends all the wrong signals ... South Korea always gave far more than it got on all fronts - except insults , where [in contrast never replied.] His point of view is well received. Moon looked like the high schooler who approaches his crush every week and asks them to go to the cinema just to go humiliated every time. At some point the whole process becomes redundant and one is proud and reasonable of the self is mortally wounded.
Moon won't entirely give up the dialogue. His entire presidency and his personal reputation as a statesman are in direct dialogue with North Korea to achieve a solid and mutually acceptable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. He deserves tremendous credit for being stubborn in his noble pursuit of lasting peace despite all the problems he has encountered on his path.
But as North Korean troops begin to report to their guard posts along the DMZ, it becomes increasingly inevitable for Moon that the north continues to hit him like a piñata.
Daniel R. DePetris is a columnist for the Washington Examiner and contributes to the National Interest.
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