Issue 50: December 5 - 19, 2018

News

Kim Jong-un's Possible Visit to South Korea

Amanda Wong

Rumors about North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un possibly visiting Seoul have been widespread despite a lack of confirmation from either the North Korean government or South Korean government. South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has actively pushed for Kim Jong-un to visit South Korea. However the Blue House has not given a concrete time frame for the visit, although a presidential spokesman has also stated that it is unlikely that Kim will visit before the year ends. Despite preparations being made by the South Korean government, there are still no concrete plans in place.

The possibility of Kim Jong-un visiting Seoul has sparked a debate in South Korea, with progressive groups welcoming the visit as a way to improve inter-Korean relations and conservative groups opposing Kim’s visit on the grounds of the North Korean nuclear program and previous provocations. This has already manifested in the form of protests in Seoul on Dec 8, 2018 by groups on both sides of the debate. The possibility of Kim Jong-un visiting also presents a challenge to Moon Jae-in, who will need to balance the act of welcoming Kim and allowing South Koreans to express their views freely, without using excessive security to censor anti-North Korean demonstrations.

When Kim eventually visits, he will be the first North Korean leader to visit South Korea since the end of the Korean War. This would be highly symbolic and likely to improve inter-Korean relations, although it could also unleash protests in South Korea over the North Korean regime’s past transgressions. However, the delay of Kim’s visit to beyond 2018 represents another roadblock in the efforts to improve inter-Korean relations. It increases the uncertainty about future prospects for reconciliation, especially when nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the US are at a stalemate, and North Korea continues to develop its nuclear weapons program.

Na Kyung-won Elected Floor Leader of the Opposition Party

John Seymour

Representative Na Kyung-won was elected as the new floor leader for the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), the main opposition party, on Tuesday, Dec 11, 2018. The four-term lawmaker defeated Representative Kim Hack-yong to fill incumbent Kim Sung-tae’s position, winning 68 of the 103 total votes in the process.

Na Kyung-won, the first female floor leader of the LKP, enters her new position with the task of reforming her party’s reputation for the 2020 parliamentary elections. The ousting of former conservative President Park Geun-hye in March 2017 after a corruption scandal precipitated a decline in confidence in the LKP, with public support reported at 24.7% in early December. Na is seen as having few, if any, ties to Park, but many Park loyalists supported her in the election.

Prior to representing the Seoul Dongjak district in the National Assembly for four terms, the 55-year-old Na served as a judge in district courts and worked as an aide for former presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang. In 2011, she ran for mayor of Seoul, but lost to current mayor Park Won-soon. She has also demonstrated an interest in sports and has been a member of the governing board of the International Paralympic Committee since 2013. Additionally, sheopposed inter-Korean initiatives at the the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics such as fielding a joint team for women’s ice hockey, stating such plans “go against the international sanctions on North Korea.”

Following the election, Na heavily criticized President Moon Jae-in’s administration and called for an end to factional disputes within the conservative party. She has also expressed dissatisfaction with the Moon administration’s income-led economic growth policy. She will have a limited period of time to accomplish these goals. Her current term will last for a year, though an extension to 2020 is possible.

This Week in History: Kim Young-sam Elected First Civilian President Since 1961

On December 18, 1992, Kim Young-sam won South Korea’s presidential elections, defeating both the main opposition Democratic Party candidate, Kim Dae-jung and a newly formed United People’s Party candidate, Chung Ju-yung, founder of Hyundai Group. Kim Young-Sam won 42 percent of the vote and became the first democratically elected civilian president since the 1961 military coup. Kim Young-sam  was previously a National Assembly member who staunchly opposed both military governments led by Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan.

He was put under house arrest from 1980 to 1983 by the Chun Doo-hwan regime. After being free from house arrest, he unsuccessfully ran for president in 1987, splitting the vote with Kim Dae-jung. In 1990, Kim Young-sam merged his Reunification Democratic Party with then-President Roh Tae-woo’s ruling Democratic Justice Party, forming the centre-right Democratic Liberal Party, which made him a ruling party presidential candidate in 1992. 

Events

Northeast Asia and the New Congress
12:00 PM- 1:30 PM, Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Korea Economic Institute of America
1800 K St NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006

Opportunities

Research Intern- Korea Chair (Spring 2019)
Center for Strategic and International Studies

Volunteer Internship, Korea Studies, Spring 2019
Council on Foreign Relations

Office Manager/Executive Assistant
Korea Economic Institute of America

Korea Intern
The Asia Group

Manager of International Programming, Asia-Pacific
Obama Foundation