On April 27th, 2018, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un met on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone. It was the third ever meeting between leaders of the two Koreas, and the first in the last eleven years. This meeting took place following the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, in which the two countries agreed on a joint attendance.
The entire world watched the live broadcast in anticipation to see how this meeting would play out. The two leaders marched down towards the demarcation line to greet each other; smiling widely, the two shared a long, firm handshake as Kim became the first North Korean leader to set foot in South Korea since 1953. In an unscripted moment, Kim offered Moon to come over to the North Korean side, which he accepted. This brief step into the North was a show of President Moon’s open, positive attitude towards future cooperation with his country's counterpart.
The Trump administration expressed its satisfaction with the meeting’s results, as President Trump tweeted: "KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!"
Why was this important?
What was the outcome of this summit?
The main ideas of the new Panmunjom Agreement are as follows:
Does this mean diplomacy works?
In a world of constantly conflicting interests between groups of people, we are often seeking for the answer to how countries can settle their disagreements. As somewhat of an idealist in terms of foreign policy, I always looked to diplomacy as the first and foremost solution. We can talk it out before we start launching bombs at each other… right?
As powerful countries have asserted their veto rights to put down any proposals against their self-interests, and as seemingly "old problems" have continued to permeate our society, I couldn't help but feel that diplomacy was beginning to fail on me. The United Nations, while important and absolutely necessary for countries to discuss world issues and vote on policies, is often not as effective as we would like it to be.
The agreement signed at the 2018 Inter-Korean Summit is filled with optimism, generalities, and ambitious goals, but lacks concrete details on how the North and South Korea will go about achieving them. The main problem resides in the ambiguity of terms promised and agreed upon by the different parties. What does it mean to "reaffirm,” "recognize,” or "make joint effort"? Will they actually carry out measures to "bring forward the future of co-prosperity and unification"? This is exactly why many people question the effectiveness of diplomacy. To many, it has simply become a game of empty promises.
The world has yet to see whether agreements of tangible and concrete plans will come out of the Trump-Kim Summit. But if the two Koreas are able to put 65 years of differences aside to sign this historic agreement through peaceful negotiations, then maybe diplomacy isn't as dead as we thought. Nevertheless, we should applaud the South Korean administration, in part, for its attempt to push for a more peaceful Korean Peninsula.