Hero who changed history deserves Nobel Peace Prize
PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un might have been the alpha males in the perfectly choreographed historic handshake at the US-North Korea Summit in Singapore this week, but they were not the heroes of the show.
The real hero is quiet, selfeffacing and drove the process from behind.
He pulled off the biggest diplomatic coup of modern times, which has in effect ended the Cold War after 70 years of brinkmanship.
His name is President Moon Jaein and if we want to elevate someone to hero status, he is our guy.
Never has someone been more deserving of a Nobel Peace Prize. One thing is for sure, without him in the driver’s seat in the Blue House (South Korea’s version of the White House), we might have been confronting the indescribable horror of a nuclear conflagration – it was really that close.
Moon has been nothing but masterful since taking the presidency last year and played what can only be described as a perfect game of chess.
But it was not political opportunism that drove him to relentlessly pursue the cause of peace with North Korea, but his deep inner desire to bury the hatred and division of the past, and reunite the country.
What Moon wants more than anything before he retires is to take his 90-year-old grandmother back to her home town, Hungnam, in North Korea. He is operating on borrowed time if that is his goal.
In the space of just one year, Moon has performed a series of seemingly impossible feats. He convinced Kim to let North Korea participate in the winter Olympics, which he dubbed the “Peace Olympics”, and wasted no time in sending several missions to Pyongyang for exploratory talks.
Then came his moment of triumph – he crossed the Rubicon into North Korea at the demilitarised zone on April 27, our own Freedom Day.
His approval through the roof.
But for the seeds ratings of went peace to truly germinate, two things need to happen – North Korea must give up its nuclear weapons, and US troops must leave South Korea.
The fly in the ointment was always the US and that was Moon’s greatest challenge, how to manage a volatile and egotistical US president who is in desperate need of a foreign policy victory to point to in his next electoral campaign, but who could turn the tables on the whole process on a dime.
It was touch and go when both sides ratcheted up the rhetoric and the fate of the US-North Korea Summit seemed to have fallen flat.
But Moon worked doggedly at his quiet diplomacy, brokering a last-minute summit with the North in order to ease tension and get the process back on track.
Like any masterful negotiator, Moon gave all the praise to the two protagonists and cleverly massaged Trump’s ego on the eve of the historic summit. Moon spoke to Trump for 40 minutes on Sunday afternoon before the talks, saying it was thanks entirely to Trump’s resolute determination and strong leadership that the historic North KoreaUS summit could finally be held and that all Koreans would pray with all their hearts that Trump would be able to make a miraculous achievement.
Yes, it was Trump the saviour, the ultimate dealmaker, the miracle maker – just the image that would spur him to success. And it worked.
Trump strode in as if he were larger than life, all smiles, reaching out to touch Kim’s arm on more than one occasion, giving the impression they were long-lost friends.
The ultimate showman, he was able to show off his presidential limousine known as “The Beast” to the North Korean leader – flown in from Washington – evidence of just how powerful Trump is, or appears to be. It was all meant to greatly impress, and it gave Trump the validation he so eagerly desires.
A limousine kitted out with a tear-gas canon, a night-vision camera and pump-action shotgun was sure to impress, as was the seven-seat interior sealed to protect against a chemical or biological attack.
Moon, who was watching the piece of theatre from his office in the Blue House was all smiles – he knew it was working.
The South Korean president knows the process of denuclearisation and US withdrawal may take at least a year or two to complete, but it will succeed.
Moon may have come from a father who worked in a prisoner-of-war camp and from a mother who sold eggs, but that has given him the gravitas that has made him the visionary leader he is today.
A man of the people, he said in his election campaign that he wanted to be the type of president who could share a glass of soju (Korean wine) with the public after work.
There is no doubt his people are toasting his triumph this week.
Ebrahim is Independent Media’s group foreign editor
South Korean President Moon Jae-in presiding over a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday.