Hero who changed his­tory deserves No­bel Peace Prize

The Mercury - - BACKGROUND & ANALYSIS - Shan­non Ebrahim

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.

Power play

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.

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