Candlelight Mandate, Moonshine Diplomacy, and Partisan Narratives

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In 2016, conservative president Park Geun-hye’s trustpolitik crumbled with North Korea’s nuclear tests. This triggered a barrage of policy reversals, including decisions to (1) deploy the US anti-ballistic missile system, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), (2) enter a military intelligence-sharing agreement—General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA)—with the United States and Japan, and (3) conclude a “comfort women” agreement with Japan (actually, days earlier). By this point, all hopes of leveraging Chinese support to deal with North Korea had elapsed and Park had returned to a deterrence-focused approach. Amid growing domestic turmoil that eventually culminated in Park’s impeachment and imprisonment, however, South Korean foreign policy would suffer yet another whiplash in early 2017.

Progressive president Moon Jae-in came to power in a climate of mounting uncertainty with a “candlelight” mandate. He had the delicate task of reviewing Park’s foreign policy decisions—many of which bore accusations of procedural illegitimacy—as well as delivering his own “Moonshine” agenda. The Trump presidency and the onset of “fire and fury” brinkmanship only added to Moon’s urgency. A series of high-profile summitries thus followed, in large part as a result of Moon’s public outreach. Yet, opinions were divided, some declaring them timely interventions and others finding them excessive diplomatic concessions.

To trace the tumultuous changes in South Korean foreign policy in 2016-2019 and the debates that surrounded them, this article draws once again from partisan newspaper editorials: Chosun, Donga, and Joongang, among others, for conservative narratives, and Kyunghyang and Hankyoreh for progressive ones. In the two periods marking the downfall of the Park presidency and the rise of Moon’s, South Korea’s foreign policy was in for a wild ride: (1) from the botched trustpolitik to “Moonshine” on North Korea; (2) from fears of Korea passing to grievances of Korea bashing by Trump’s America; (3) from a breakdown in courtship with China over THAAD to its recovery; and finally (4) from a “final and irreversible” deal on history issues with Japan to a recharged row. Partisan narratives on these shifts were remarkably consistent at times and remarkably innovative at others, reflecting the uncertainty of the times.

The Park Presidency

In her 2011 Foreign Affairs essay, Park had promised a “new kind of Korea”—one bonded by trust, rather than merely power or ideals. Departing from conventional party platform, her policy of “trustpolitik” would pursue in tandem capacity-building for deterrence and trust-building for diplomatic outreach. As she stressed: “To ensure stability, trustpolitik should be applied consistently from issue to issue based on verifiable actions, and steps should not be taken for mere political expediency.”1 Trustpolitik was, in essence, a policy of constructing and enforcing norms of engagement.

In practice, this required a much better working relationship with China than one that her conservative predecessor Lee Myung-bak had left behind. With bipartisan support for her efforts, Park sought closer ties with Beijing through a series of grand gestures—such as attending the 2015 Victory Parade—and strategic dialogues. Yet, there appeared to be a diplomatic ceiling: when push came to shove in January 2016, with the North’s fourth nuclear test, Beijing refused to reign in Pyongyang, prompting Park to announce: “We can no longer expect much from China.”2 In this sense, various policy reversals that came in the wake of this incident—the THAAD deployment, the signing of GSOMIA, and even the passage of the “comfort women” agreement just before—indicated Seoul’s reembrace of Washington and its trilateral regional security framework with Japan as the only viable mechanism of deterrence against the North.

These policy realignments, however well-intentioned, were poorly timed. With growing public indignation over Park’s domestic political scandals, many of her decisions were recast as illegitimate and even diversionary. Those who found them in any way meritorious were quickly sidelined and the progressive opposition, armed with public support, repudiated them in full force. By the time Park left office in disgrace and Trump entered his in disbelief, conjectures surrounding South Korea’s foreign policy trajectory—vis-à-vis North Korea, the United States, China, and Japan—were as rife as they were divisive.

North Korea

With its nuclear tests in 2016, Pyongyang made clear its unwillingness to play by Park’s trustpolitik paradigm. Disappointment was felt across ideological lines, though blame fell on different entities: if the conservatives focused more squarely on the hostile strategic environment and, in particular, the rigidity of key powers—that is, China and the United States—the progressives condemned Park for her diplomatic failure and urged continued engagement with China. Each decision Park made in response to the North’s nuclear provocations was assessed with its broader implications for the regional security environment in which South Korea’s autonomy as a “shrimp between the whales” appeared increasingly tenuous.

Conservative commentators questioned the willingness of regional powers to resolve the North’s nuclear conundrum. A January 11 Joongang Ilbo columnist noted that China and the United States have stringently maintained their original frameworks for dealing with North Korea despite repeated failure.3 Implicit in this analysis was, thus, that Park’s attempts to innovate were botched precisely by the lack of trust from which she believed the region suffered. On that same day, a Chosun Ilbo columnist similarly opined that cooperation on this issue had reached a dead end, with China’s continued rigidity regarding the international sanctions regime—a necessary component of trustpolitik—and the United States’ lukewarm approach to nuclear diplomacy under the guise of “strategic patience.”4 Naturally, the advice for the Park administration was to independently prepare for any military contingency even as it sought multilateral diplomatic efforts to deter the North.

Progressive voices, on the other hand, faulted the imbalance in Park’s trustpolitik and its disproportionate emphasis on sanctions against North Korea as the primary culprit of its failure. A Hankyoreh columnist, for instance, insisted that Chinese support for sanctions had been building, but the international demand for Chinese pressure has outpaced its willingness to exert it.5 Such a dynamic could, in fact, undermine the effectiveness of the sanctions regime, because the necessary legwork of bringing all relevant parties to a policy consensus through sustained dialogue has been neglected. In this view, Park’s failure to capture US attention and leverage China’s influence on Pyongyang were responsible for the backlash.

The ideological divide grew wider with Park’s decision to close Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC). For the conservatives, the measure was both necessary and reasonable. On February 12, a Joongang Ilbo columnist argued that it served as an effective penalty against the North for its nuclear test; the economic consequences of the KIC’s closure weighed far more heavily against the North.6 The restricted cash flows, it argued, would have direct and indirect impact on the Kim regime, including through the loss of employment for 50,000 some workers and of black markets, which would undermine regime viability in the long term. Though similarly heralding the decision, a February 15 Donga Ilbo article was more skeptical about its effectiveness. It would have some symbolic utility in signaling Seoul’s resolve, but it would not change either Pyongyang’s behavior or China’s response. The measure was, however, seen as unavoidable by . conservatives. The former foreign affairs minister Han Sung-joo said as much in an interview with Chosun Ilbo on February 17: “It is complicated, but it is a necessary and inevitable move. It is quite convincing that the money invested in the complex was exploited to develop nuclear arms. It is self-contradictory to keep operating the complex under the circumstances.”7 

Unsurprisingly, the progressive narrative was far less enthusiastic about the closure of the KIC. On February 11, Hankyoreh condemned the decision as a desperate and reckless move.8 The day before, Seoul had already announced new sanctions against the North. The KIC could have served as a platform for maintaining engagement even as such pressure was applied, but the door to dialogue had now closed entirely. At the same time, former unification minister Jeong Se-hyun stated, in an interview with Kyunghyang Shinmun on February 11, that the closure did little to advance trustpolitik.9 There was already widespread belief in China that Washington is using sanctions against North Korea as a broader strategy to coerce Beijing into complying with a US-led regional security framework; in this instance, Beijing would see Seoul’s unilateral decision to close the KIC as just another tool of US containment strategy, aimed first and foremost against China. 

Partisan narratives in the wake of North Korea’s nuclear advances reaffirmed the enduring rift between the two ideological camps in South Korea about the right approach to deal with North Korea. The progressives continued to push for engagement, depicting the North’s provocations as an outcome—rather than a driver—of the South’s mixed signals and deterrence-heavy approach. At the same time, conservatives felt vindicated in their deep-rooted cynicism about the North’s intentions and, to that extent, skepticism about the viability of Park’s trustpolitik paradigm. Thus, when she finally reversed the policy, conservatives pointed to the hostile strategic environment as the cause of its failure, not Park’s lack of strategic foresight.

United States

The North’s nuclear provocations forced partisans to double down on their narratives concerning the US alliance. These largely followed the traditional fault-lines in partisan narratives on foreign policy, though they also revealed a growing consensus in the mainstream partisan narratives—the futility of economic sanctions, which had been the primary tool of coercion—which prescribed divergent policy responses, ranging from dialogue to deterrence. Meanwhile, Trump’s election and “America First” rhetoric engendered a critical development in the fringes of conservative thinking in support of self-nuclearization, even at the risk of harming the US alliance and the international non-proliferation regime.

Following the second nuclear test in September 2016, conservative coverages called for a series of military actions, including strengthened US nuclear deterrence and trilateral security framework. In a September 13 Donga Ilbo article, Choi Kang argued that Seoul needed to expedite cooperation with the United States and Japan to facilitate information sharing and crisis management.10 Choi also recommended establishing a Nuclear Planning Group or redeploying tactical nuclear weapons in the South to bolster US nuclear guarantees and moderate arguments for self-nuclearization. The next day, Donga Ilbo further emphasized the importance of trilateral security cooperation and, in particular, signing of the two military agreements GSOMIA and the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), which had long been delayed due to Seoul’s tenuous support.11 Finally, the author added that fears of Japan’s remilitarization were misplaced, especially when China has been seeking hegemony in the region.

Meanwhile, progressive coverage called for caution and dialogue. On September 21, a Hankyoreh columnist argued that dialogue—and only dialogue—had so far worked in dealing with North Korea, delaying its nuclear development over the last two decades.12 Any change in tactics must thus aim to have more and better dialogue, not less. More concretely, the author recommended building dialogues in a step-wise manner, first around a verification strategy for a  nuclear freeze and later around a comprehensive agreement on denuclearization or a peace treaty. Underlying this assessment was an unsaid assumption that Obama’s “strategic patience” and Park’s “trustpolitik” had failed, because they were driven by an unrealistic objective: the dismantlement of the North’s nuclear forces and, thus, the Kim regime. Once again, the responsibility lay with Seoul and Washington to revive dialogue.

One interesting convergence in the partisan narratives was the futility of economic sanctions, albeit for different reasons. Conservatives believed that additional sanctions would not stop Kim, because they were not accompanied by credible military threat.13 For this reason, they stressed that Seoul (and the United States) needed to solidify its missile defense and nuclear deterrence. Progressives similarly asserted that sanctions were impractical, and potentially even dangerous; they had so far done little to impede the North’s nuclear development and in fact made South Korea its key target. Even at the height of sanctions, Pyongyang had managed to advance its nuclear capabilities at historic speed and scale; from this perspective, compelling the North to abandon its weapons was as foolish as it was illusory. Instead, dialogue should be aimed at normalizing relations such that hostilities would become both unnecessary and undesirable.

In this polarizing moment, news of Trump’s election generated both anxiety and a sense of opportunity in South Korea. In general, conservatives were warier about the implications, ranging from possible estrangement to total abandonment. In Joongang Ilbo on November 10, an observer posited that Trump would pursue retrenchment, narrowing US commitment in the region to the maritime theater.14 Similarly, Kim Taehyo in Chosun Ilbo on the same day argued that Trump would seek some form of “offshore balancing” and rely on regional powers like Japan to check potentially hostile challengers like China.15 Even though Kim believed that such a concept was unlikely to materialize at the time—given the history of US values diplomacy—he acknowledged that Trump was uninterested in promoting human rights or democracy abroad. A Chosun Ilbo columnist thus advised on November 26 to prepare for the worst, as Trump had promised during the campaign to undo much of the military and economic foundation of the US-South Korean alliance, in favor of a “better deal.”

By contrast, progressive narratives surrounding Trump’s election were more cautiously optimistic. On November 24, Shin Bong-gil opined in Hankyoreh that Trump’s disregard for existing institutional arrangements—and the uncertainties this boded for policies on North Korea, the alliance, and trade—could offer an opportunity for Seoul. All Trump cared about were short-term transactional gains, which meant there may be an opening for South Korea to undertake painful, but necessary, transitions in the alliance structure to finally regain some autonomy. Whether by retrenchment or inattention, the Trump administration would force Seoul to be more independent in its dealings with North Korea, and it was time that it took concrete steps to curtail what the author described as “excessive” dependence on the United States.

Trump’s election in many ways catalyzed South Korea’s search for autonomy, albeit for different reasons. As conservatives questioned the credibility of US security guarantees to the South and anxieties about abandonment grew, calls for indigenous (nuclear) weapons systems gained steam. Progressives, on the other hand, saw Trump’s domestic orientation as a boon for Seoul to extricate itself from postwar entanglements with Washington. What had long served as foreign policy common sense—its ties to the United States—appeared to be unraveling by this point.

China

China’s failure to reign in Pyongyang, despite its continued nuclear provocations, raised questions about Beijing’s intentions. What role did it play—a facilitator or a spoiler—in North Korean denuclearization or the broader inter-Korean peace process? If, in the conservative narrative, China was and always will be a spoiler despite sincere efforts to engage it, in the progressive narrative, China remained the crucial facilitator for any regional security problem. The prescriptive implications of these partisan narratives for Seoul’s foreign policy once again diverged, between a strengthened military deterrence approach and a more energetic diplomatic engagement approach.

These debates reemerged when, in response to the North’s nuclear testing, the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi called for a “nuclear-free” Korean Peninsula and a peace agreement to end the ongoing armistice. On February 17, 2016, a Donga Ilbo article condemned the speech as a tactic to delay sanctions mechanisms at the UN Security Council and detract attention from denuclearization.16 The suggestion, the author argued, was also insincere, as it would require the South to simply accept the North as a nuclear state. Likewise, a Joongang Ilbo article the next day raised alarm about the “Chinese way” of dealing with North Korea.17 The principles of non-interventionism and multilateralism allow Beijing to disguise its “inherent unilateralism” in pursuing a non-decision and, thus, non-coercion against North Korea.

By contrast, a February 19 Kyunghyang Ilbo article supported China’s proposal as a solution to the more fundamental problem in inter-Korean relations: North Korea’s insecurity. The proposition was, in fact, nothing new: previous joint statements between the two Koreas had already articulated a peace agreement as an aspiration. The article thus argued that to reassure (and denuclearize) the North, the vestiges of Cold War era confrontation should be resolved first. Sanctions alone could not prevent the arms race from spiraling into a conflict, even though they may serve as effective punishment in the short term. Mapping strategies to achieve regional peace in the long term—with China’s help—was key.

The debates intensified as Seoul decided to deploy THAAD on July 7, 2016. Progressives immediately warned against it, claiming that it would destroy Park’s credibility as well as diplomatic identity. On July 15, a Kyunghyang Shinmun observer noted that, though the effects of THAAD were uncertain, the scale of its backlash was both clear and massive. Indeed, as part of her trustpolitik paradigm, Park had pursued the “Korean Peninsula Trust Process,” “Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative,” and “Eurasia Initiative”—each of which had sought to deepen multilateral engagement with China and Russia. These efforts were now irrevocably compromised, leaving no diplomatic option but to depend on the United States.

A centrist outlet, Hankook Ilbo, had also cautioned against it on July 11, asserting that this could drag South Korea further into the Sino-American battle over the regional order. Throughout her tenure, Park had been sending mixed signals to China, from attending its military parade in 2015 to deploying THAAD, which it claims is weakening its nuclear deterrent. Park’s decision could now raise North Korea’s strategic value for China, which would likely retaliate in various ways.

Conservatives similarly acknowledged the unnecessary complication that Park’s earlier diplomacy introduced, yet downplayed China’s possible retaliation. On July 16, a Chosun Ilbo commentator argued that Beijing would take a symbolic—rather than material—action to signal its displeasure18; and whatever the cost, Seoul should bar it for the sake of national security. What is more concerning, in fact, was Seoul’s declining credibility as an ally. Despite continued negotiations with the United States, Seoul repeatedly insisted that there was “nothing requested, negotiated, and decided.” From the beginning, Seoul should have clarified that any decision would reflect its interests, given the North’s ongoing provocations. Instead, Park played a double game, giving China a ruse with which to be uncooperative and the United States reasons to distrust Seoul’s reliability.

Seoul’s drastic U-turn in its policy orientation vis-à-vis China suggested Park’s growing disenchantment with trustpolitik. Conservatives welcomed the administration’s return to the traditional alliance-centered approach to North Korea, though many worried that the damage had already been done. Combined with Trump’s election and the rise of the “America First” paradigm in the United States, a sense of detachment was growing more palpable.

Japan

The primary source of friction in South Korea’s relationship with Japan during this period concerned the “comfort women” agreement (December 2015) and later, GSOMIA (November 2016). The “comfort women” agreement had proclaimed that the issue had been resolved in a “final and irreversible manner,” with Japan’s contribution of a billion yen toward supporting the surviving “comfort women” in the South. Various Japanese politicians also interpreted the deal as stipulating the removal of “comfort women” statues. The deal generated significant controversy in South Korea, particularly during its implementation process and with the signing of GSOMIA, earlier efforts for which had been foiled due to public opposition.

Progressive coverage condemned the deal as both illegitimate and immoral. On December 30, Shin Joobaek in a Kyunghyang Shinmun article portrayed the deal as little more than a means to bolster trilateral military cooperation, allowing the Abe administration to escape international criticism. Similarly, a Hankyoreh article a day later characterized it as hastily reached, without consulting the victims and taking their wishes into account. Given the public ire, the deal was unlikely to put “history issues” to rest. Instead, it would exacerbate the conflict as Japan now had an excuse to evade responsibility and Koreans would continue to demand justice. In the longer run, this would only make cooperation with Japan more difficult.

Meanwhile, conservative outlets emphasized the benefits of the deal and called for caution. A Chosun Ilbo article on December 31 acknowledged—in fact, applauded—that the deal had emerged from conversations with the United States and Japan about strengthening trilateral cooperation. Yet, the agreement was fragile given the “extreme sensitivity” in South Korea. Managing public opinion was thus crucial for its implementation; and to this end, the article warned Japanese officials to refrain from making incendiary remarks that could lead to the breakdown of the deal. Other conservative commentators, such as Nam Kijung in a Hankook Ilbo article on December 29, were more optimistic, casting the deal as a starting point for the two countries’ “future-oriented relationship.”

With the July 28 launch of the Foundation of Reconciliation and Healing—tasked with disbursing the funds—public criticisms of the deal mounted. Kyunghyang Shinmun noted on August 31 that the Foundation’s main objective was to disguise Japan’s legal responsibility by distributing the funds as assistance rather than compensation. Further, Japan’s demands for removing the statues have only grown louder, making it clear that the funds accompanied little remorse. The next day in Hankyoreh, Nam Kijung advocated for a temporary suspension in the implementation of the deal, conditional on three demands: first, Abe needs to recognize the deal as representing Japan’s view on history; second, the source of the funds must be specified to clarify the nature of the compensation as legal damages to the victims; and third, Japanese politicians must stop asking for the removal of the statues. Without the abovementioned conditions, implementing the deal would further delegitimize it and the spirit of reconciliation it was intended to sustain.

Conservative commentators nonetheless supported the deal as a pragmatic alternative to the ongoing stalemate over history issues. On August 1, a Donga Ilbo article likened the “comfort women” agreement to the 1965 normalization treaty, which had similarly suffered tremendous opposition but set the two countries on a mutually beneficial path. With proper implementation by the foundation, the current deal could also serve as a springboard for deepening their relationship.

By the time GSOMIA was passed in November 2016, the public backlash appeared insurmountable. Park’s decision was assessed within the broader context of her domestic political scandals, amplifying dissenting voices that these foreign policy maneuvers were procedurally undemocratic and, thus, illegitimate. Many recalled the previous attempts in 2012 by the Lee Myung-bak administration to close the deal in secret, for which he was similarly denounced. As calls for Park’s impeachment grew, the fate of these last-minute agreements with Japan seemed, too, in peril.

The Moon Presidency

On March 10, 2017 Park was removed from office following the endorsement of the Constitutional Court of the parliament’s impeachment vote. In the midst of such mayhem, concerns mounted about the political vacuum in Seoul and its growing diplomatic isolation. It was in this climate of uncertainty and instability that Moon Jae-in took office. From the intensity of North Korean military provocations, the frictions in the US-South Korean alliance under the Trump presidency, the onslaught of Chinese retaliation for THAAD, to the backlash over the “comfort women” agreement with Japan, the Moon administration was besieged by foreign policy crises. A sense of urgency was unmistakable.

Given his “candlelight mandate,” Moon sought first and foremost to review the controversial decisions that his predecessor had made vis-à-vis China and Japan, and then accelerated his own “Moonshine” agenda with North Korea and the United States. On the former, the Moon administration emphasized the importance of transparency to regain public trust in executive decision-making processes.  On the latter, he sought to project South Korea’s role as an indispensable mediator. Within the first two years of his tenure, Moon’s diplomacy had facilitated a series of high-profile summits that seemed to place South Korea back on the “driver’s seat.” A sense of diplomatic victory was widespread.

China

Following the advanced deployment of THAAD under the interim president Hwang Gyo-ahn, relations with China took a turn for the worse. Both sides of the ideological spectrum in South Korea broadly agreed that the decision was poorly executed, without the necessary diplomatic legwork to reassure Beijing. Some conservative commentators, however, came to Hwang’s defense, claiming that Seoul should not have to justify its security decisions to China. Despite a long and painful economic coercive campaign by Beijing to reverse the THAAD decision, Moon maintained the deployment and later, managed to forge a degree of rapprochement. But calls to diversify South Korea’s economic ties to reduce vulnerability to Chinese retaliation were rampant by this point.

Progressive coverage blasted the underlying military rationale behind the THAAD deployment and emphasized the unintended costs of its abrupt implementation. A February 20 Hankyoreh article, for instance, argued that North Korean short-range missiles could fly undetected, rendering South Korea’s missile defense system—consisting of the Kill Chain, KAMD, and THAAD—effectively useless. THAAD was, in this view, more intended to protect the United States forces in Okinawa and Guam rather than the South Korean people. On March 13, Choi Jong-geon in Hankyoreh also asserted that THAAD stripped Seoul of its only leverage to bring the Trump and Xi administrations to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. By forcing its implementation, Hwang jeopardized Seoul’s diplomatic standing as well as economic health, which was already under significant strains.

Conservative outlets generally conceded that the implementation was unnecessarily hurried, though without questioning the military utility of the THAAD system. On March 7, a Joongang Ilbo columnist acknowledged that reaching a settlement with Beijing was critical for Seoul as it set new alliance boundaries with Washington under Trump, who had already floated ideas of unilateral and preemptive strikes against North Korea. That same day, the former foreign minister Yoon Yung-kwan also commented in Chosun Ilbo that Beijing’s attempts to gain hegemony further complicated Seoul’s position in the region. For this reason, policies concerning THAAD had to be carefully pursued to maximize Seoul’s influence over not just North Korean denuclearization, but the broader developments in regional security. Conspicuous in this coverage was a sense of anxiety regarding the shifting terms of alliance under the Trump administration and the diminishing scope of policy autonomy for Seoul in the face of an assertive China.

With South Korea’s pledge to the “three no’s” principles—no additional THAAD units; no joining the US missile defense system; and no trilateral military alliance with the US and Japan—China finally rolled back its economic coercive campaign and committed to improving bilateral relations. But by this point, both ideological camps in South Korea had grown wary about the implications of the THAAD incident for future contingencies in which South Korean defense efforts become tied to broader regional competition between its ally, the United States, and strategic partner, China.

Indeed, though progressive voices generally welcomed the limited rapprochement, they also recognized the need for a mechanism to resolve differences in the longer run. A Hankyoreh editorial on October 31 celebrated the “practical” decisions of the two parties to repair relations, allowing South Korea to keep the existing THAAD launchers by providing assurances that it will not participate in US encirclement of China.19 But Kyunghyang Shinmun on the same day noted that, if Seoul’s THAAD decision had posed a shock to China, the “three-no’s” principles would surely disappoint the United States. South Korea needed concrete measures to navigate what will remain conflicts of interests.

Conservative voices, meanwhile, saw the “three no’s” principles as overly accommodating and even harmful to South Korean sovereignty. A Kookmin article on October 31 described “three no’s” as “short-sighted”: Without knowing what kind of North Korean provocation is under way, making such promises was simply imprudent. The article also condemned China for failing to apologize for its retaliation over THAAD; there was no mention of compensation for the losses accrued by South Korea, or of promises not to reoffend.20 Similarly, other conservative editorials in Donga Ilbo on November 1 and Chosun Ilbo on November 11 portrayed Seoul as the decisive loser in the diplomatic bargain with China. They mourned Seoul’s loss of sovereignty over security matters as this incident had only proved the efficacy of coercive tactics for China.

During the Moon-Xi summit on December 14, 2017 the two leaders agreed to four basic principles on North Korea. These principles included: 1) unacceptability of war on the Korean peninsula, 2) commitment to its denuclearization, 3) commitment to the peaceful resolution of the North Korean problem, and 4) recognition that improved inter-Korean relations are key to achieving peace. Besides agreeing to these principles, Moon and Xi considered a range of measures to repair the strained ties, including establishing a hotline between the two leaders.
Contrary to expectations that Xi would push Moon aggressively—particularly prevalent among conservative outlets prior to the summit—Xi refrained from touching on sensitive topics, including the “three no’s” and “freeze-for-freeze.” Arguably in return, Moon refrained from demanding that Xi place an oil embargo on North Korea.

Following the summit, the Blue House released an internal assessment of Moon’s China trip, painting it as successful. Conservative outlets, including Chosun on December 18, argued that the Moon administration’s self-evaluation was overly optimistic.21 Chosun points out that of the four principles to which Xi agreed during the summit, three have been Beijing’s preferences since 1993—no war, denuclearization, and resolution by peaceful means. In other words, Beijing’s current stance is not a product of Seoul’s diplomatic efforts, but rather, long-held strategic judgment. A more centrist outlet Kookmin, on December 17 further noted that while emotional approaches to assessing Moon’s trip can be found from both sides, it is undeniable that few concrete measures have been agreed to toward fulfilling the aforesaid principles.22

Progressive coverage criticized the main opposition party for their emotional analyses of Moon’s China trip. A Kyunghyang article on December 15 cited the leader of the opposition Hong Joon-pyo, who described Moon’s recent trip as “tributary diplomacy”; the article views such remarks as inflammatory yet empty in substance.23 Given that the conservatives were in many ways responsible for the current state of South Korea-China relations—by blindly supporting alliance ties with the United States and allowing the deployment of THAAD in particular—Kyunghyang found Hong’s attitude inappropriate. Hankyoreh shared this view.24 Even while conceding that Beijing’s treatment of Moon was subpar, the article argued that expectations of a grand welcome were unrealistic to begin with. More important, the article saw the opposition party’s derisive remarks as a political attempt to simply derail Moon’s commitment to repair ties with Beijing.

In this way, much of the partisan debate surrounding China concerned the THAAD fallout and the implications of South Korean “three no’s” compromise for its foreign policy autonomy going forward. Though assessments over who won or who lost followed closely existing ideological expectations, there appeared to be an emerging consensus that South Korea was facing an impossible security-economic dilemma, in which efforts to regain security in the face of continued North Korean provocations resulted in economic losses imposed by an increasingly assertive China. Seoul’s ability to avoid these trade-offs seemed dubious at best, and commentators from both sides called for economic diversification to dampen the blow going forward.

Japan

If relations with China had regained some semblance of normalcy under Moon, relations with Japan progressively deteriorated. Relying on a so-called “two-track approach”—disaggregating diplomatic and historical issues in conducting bilateral relations—Moon sought to circumvent any discussions of sensitive issues with Tokyo. This only lasted so long, as a South Korean independent commission found that the 2015 “comfort women” agreement was unsound, and later, the Supreme Court ruled that individual victims of forced labor could seek reparations from Japan. These so enraged Tokyo that, in the summer of 2019, it unleashed a barrage of informal sanctions against South Korea, rendering bilateral relations at an impasse. 

On December 27, 2017, Moon’s Special Task Force, assigned to review the 2015 South Korea-Japan agreement on “comfort women,” announced that the deal was concluded in a “seriously flawed” manner, and could not resolve the two countries’ dispute over the historical issue. The agreement entailed a one-time payment of approximately $8.3 million by Tokyo to meet the needs of the “comfort women” survivors in South Korea, and branded the deal a “final and irreversible” resolution to the decades-old issue. In response to the findings of the Special Task Force, Japanese Foreign Minister Kono Taro responded that any revision or renegotiation of the 2015 agreement would render bilateral relations in an “unmanageable” state, leading to speculations about Moon’s next steps.

Progressive coverage expressed extreme disappointment regarding the undisclosed aspects of the 2015 agreement, in which then-president Park agreed to: 1) persuade organizations working on behalf of the “comfort women” to accept the payment; 2) strive to remove the “comfort woman” statue in front of the Japanese embassy in Seoul; 3) stop funding additional “comfort woman” statues in third countries; and 4) stop using the term “sexual slaves” to refer to the “comfort women.” Lamenting how Park discarded the demands of the surviving “comfort women” in conceding to Japanese terms, a Hankyoreh article on December 27, 2017 painted the 2015 deal as a “historic crime.”25 Further, the article condemned Abe for failing to apologize for Japan’s wartime atrocities and urged him to take legal responsibility. Given that one of Moon’s campaign promises was to renegotiate the 2015 agreement, Hankyoreh found Moon in an intractable, and perhaps contradictory, position to reopen the dispute while simultaneously seeking to mend ties with Japan.

Conservative coverage found fault with both the 2015 agreement and its review, concerned about its implications for South Korea-Japan relations. A Joongang article on December 28, 2017 acknowledged that the deal was concluded in a rushed manner, and that its characterization of the resolution as “final and irreversible” was inappropriate.26 Yet, the article also recognized that the Task Force released sensitive documents—merely two years after the conclusion of the deal—potentially harming the legitimacy and reputation of the South Korean government. Joongang asks rhetorically, “which country would be willing to conclude a politically sensitive, secret deal with Seoul?” A more centrist Kookmin, on December 27, 2017 shared the sentiment: Even though the flaws of the agreement are manifest—and Japan’s attitude of entitlement should be corrected—repudiating the deal would be costly and could possibly damage South Korea-Japan relations beyond repair.27 A better path forward, in these commentaries, was for Moon to work to compensate the victims internally and cooperate with Tokyo to restore the broken trust rather than unilaterally rescinding the agreement.  

Amid intense debate in Seoul about the prospects of the 2015 deal, South Korean foreign minister Kang Kyunghwa announced during a press conference on January 9, 2018, that the Moon administration will not seek renegotiations. Nonetheless, Seoul requested of Tokyo a “voluntary and sincere apology” to the victims. In response, Abe stated that he cannot accept Seoul’s unilateral demands that Tokyo take measures beyond the initial terms of the 2015 agreement, and claimed that Tokyo will not move “even a millimeter on the deal.” Further, Kono stressed that future bilateral agreements will be difficult if the Moon administration simply rejects the commitments of its predecessors. In revealing his decision to attend the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics, Abe also declared that he intended to convey his firm stance on the 2015 deal and demand that Moon abide by its terms, pushing in particular for the removal of the “comfort woman” statue.

Partisan narratives remained hotly divided, as conservatives criticized the Moon government for “stirring the pot” for political gain and progressives expressed frustration over unmet expectations of reopening negotiations with Japan. Editorials from Chosun Ilbo and Joongang Ilbo on January 10, 2018, portrayed Moon’s earlier protests against the “comfort women” deal as a ploy to further delegitimize his conservative predecessor, even at the risk of undermining South Korea’s diplomatic credibility and security priorities.28 By contrast, progressive outlets like Kyunghyang and Hankyoreh blamed the intractable nature of the conflict—fueled by Park’s blunder—for Moon’s predicament.29 Neither, however, saw Kang’s announcement as a final resolution to the history issues.

Indeed, following the 2018 Supreme Court ruling in South Korea, which stipulated that individual victims could seek redress from Japanese entities regardless of any government-to-government settlement, history issues once again resurfaced. The ruling effectively nullified the Japanese argument that all outstanding issues of reparations had been resolved through the 1965 normalization treaty. If the 2015 “comfort women” agreement had only nominally survived—its enforcement mechanism now dismantled—the issue of forced labor had found new legal momentum and thus, prompted new diplomatic controversy.

A backlash was anticipated by many across ideological lines. At the same time, progressive editorials emphasized the indispensability of the ruling; besides paving the way for victims to pursue justice, the ruling helped rectify the troubled history of South Korean-Japanese normalization.30 Conservative commentators, while acknowledging the weight of the ruling, were warier about the diplomatic implications of future legal battles. Both Chosun Ilbo and Joongang Ilbo noted the possibility of involving third parties for mediation or even taking the case to the International Court of Justice.31 In such cases, history issues would continue to agitate relations, to the detriment of regional security.

North Korea

From the moment of his inauguration, overtures to the North were consistent. From his “Berlin Declaration” to subsequent remarks on Independence Day, Moon made clear his intentions to revive inter-Korean dialogue. But it was only in the aftermath of the North’s sixth nuclear test and the specter of US preemptive strikes that diplomacy took center stage. With Kim Jong-un’s momentous New Year’s Address and a string of summits that followed in the aftermath of the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough on denuclearization and broader peace process abounded.

The contours of “Moonshine” policy took shape as Moon pushed for peace talks between the two Koreas. Speech after speech, he spoke of “permanent peace,” which entails the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, security guarantees for the North, and deepening economic and cultural exchanges. These overtures were largely welcomed by progressives, who believed that incremental gestures such as resumption of family reunions and cessation of hostilities around the Military Demarcation Line would help build momentum for longer-term commitments toward peace. Conservatives, by contrast, found these as little more than bargaining chips for the North to draw concessions from the South. This pattern of behavior has only enabled Pyongyang to advance its nuclear program. Seoul, they warned, should remain wary of any efforts by Pyongyang to lift sanctions.

On September 2, 2017, North Korea conducted its sixth nuclear test at the Punggye-ri site, claiming to have detonated an “H-bomb” miniaturized to fit onto an ICBM, much to the skepticism of experts. In response to the test, Trump tweeted that “North Korea is a rogue nation which has become a great threat and embarrassment to China,” while also admonishing South Korea that “appeasement with North Korea will not work.” On the other hand, despite calling the test “severely disappointing,” Moon insisted: “we will not give up and will continue to push for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through peaceful means working together with our allies.” Concerns about Korea scaring, bashing, and passing were at their zenith in the aftermath of the sixth nuclear test.

One crucial development in partisan debates over the sixth nuclear test regarded the utility of self-nuclearization in South Korea. Many in the conservative camp argued that the test “crossed the red line,” justifying all options—including military ones—in response. In their view, the traditional sanctions approach had failed; Moon must thus aim to stop—not control—Pyongyang’s nuclear pursuits, even if by imposing regime change or developing Seoul’s own nuclear weapons. Progressives found these suggestions dangerous, debasing efforts toward denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula and triggering a possible nuclear arms race in Asia. For all his talk of dialogue, Moon had deployed THAAD, expanded South Korea’s missile capabilities, and acquired high-tech military assets—moves that only validated Pyongyang’s insecurities, some of his supporters complained.

Amid Trump’s threats of “fire and fury,” Kim delivered his New Year’s Address, which suggested conditional talks with Seoul during the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. This followed the reopening of inter-Korean lines of communication in Panmunjom, which had been shut for nearly 2 years since the closure of KIC in 2016. Welcoming the North’s overture, Seoul proposed holding high-level talks on January 9, 2018, which Pyongyang accepted. Trump told Moon in a phone call that he supports the talks and agreed to postpone their military exercises, but also reaffirmed his commitment to the campaign of maximum pressure against Pyongyang.

Conservatives treated the developments with caution, frustrated in particular by Trump’s about-face on North Korea. A Joongang article on January 8, 2018 claimed that Trump’s support for the talks could be a double-edged sword, particularly because he suffered domestic opposition in agreeing to delay the military exercises for the successful completion of the two Koreas’ upcoming exchanges.32 If the talks do not amount to meaningful outcomes and merely result in the North’s participation at the Olympics, Seoul could be blamed for buying Pyongyang the time it needs to advance its nuclear weapons program. Even more disquieting, it may give Trump a reason to resort to military options. Such concerns were scant in progressive coverages, which instead criticized conservative outlets for refuting Trump’s backing of the talks.33

As high-level talks unfolded before the Pyeongchang Olympics, partisans debated the meaning of the North’s olive branch for denuclearization. Pyongyang had argued that its nuclear weapons were not directed at its “brethren” South Korea, but the United States, and thus should not be a topic of discussion in inter-Korean talks. Progressives focused on the symbolic significance of the North’s Olympics participation and the opportunity this could bring for eventual dialogue on the more sensitive issues, including denuclearization. Conservatives, meanwhile, saw it as Pyongyang’s ploy to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington. As a Chosun editorial had foretold at the time, a “time of reckoning” was coming.34

Even as the third ever inter-Korean summit was held at the peace village of Panmunjom on April 27, 2018, the same partisan thinking persisted. The summit had transpired on the heels of a flurry of diplomatic and cultural exchanges that followed the North’s participation at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. During the summit, the two leaders signed the “Panmunjom Declaration,” which stated their objectives in three categories: 1) improving inter-Korean relations through joint cultural, economic, and social projects; 2) reducing military tension and eliminating the threat of conflict; and 3) establishing a “peace system” to bring a formal end to the war and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. Media responses to the summit were largely positive, though differences were noticeable in their emphases: progressive outlets characterized the summit as a successful “first step” toward peace, while conservative outlets focused on denuclearization as the core (or at times the sole) objective of the summit.

It is worth noting that the Panmunjom summit had generated substantial shifts in public mood regarding the North’s intentions for peace. According to one public opinion survey, 64.7% of the respondents stated they trusted the North’s commitment to denuclearize, while only 28.3% stated they were skeptical.35 These results demonstrated an astonishing reversal of opinion: a similar survey before the summit had painted the very opposite picture, with an overwhelming majority of 78.3% responding they distrusted the North’s peace gesture.Other trends were notable, too: real estate prices near the border spiked upwards, and talk of abolishing military requirements was spreading rapidly among the younger generation.

In this triumphant mood, inter-Korean diplomacy charged ahead, culminating in the Pyongyang Declaration. The jointly signed peace agreement included a cessation of military hostilities, economic cooperation, family reunions, exchanges in arts and sports, a reference to a nuclear-free Korea, and Kim’s potential visit to Seoul by the end of the year. The most noticeable part of the agreement was North Korea’s promise to “permanently” dismantle its nuclear facilities and allow international experts to “observe” the dismantlement; as for additional measures regarding denuclearization, including the permanent dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, North Korea expressed its willingness to carry them out as long as the United States takes corresponding measures following the spirit of the US-DPRK joint statement signed during the Singapore summit.

It was only after the Pyongyang Declaration was made that conservative coverages of Moon’s diplomacy began to split. Some like Chosun continued to see Pyongyang’s promises as empty and Seoul’s concessions as imprudent.36 Inter-Korean projects, such as reopening KIC and Mount Geumgang tourism require lifting of existing sanctions, which would provide material benefits to Pyongyang despite limited progress on denuclearization. Meanwhile, Joongang and Donga acknowledged that the Pyongyang Declaration was a step forward from past agreements. They welcomed, for instance, the more specific wording on denuclearization and a commitment to achieve it in “Kim Jong-un’s voice.” It especially appreciated the third inter-Korean summit bearing the fruit of practically allowing international inspections, including by the United States, although the term used in the declaration was “observation.” The divisions in conservative voices marked how pervasive the sense of diplomatic victory was at the time, convincing even some partisans to celebrate Moon’s success.

United States

Trump’s election and his “America First” foreign policy had massive ramifications for South Korean foreign policy during the early years of Moon’s presidency. Concerns ranged from “Korea bashing” (blaming Seoul for the North’s intransigence) to those about “Korea passing” (making peninsular decisions without Seoul’s input). Trump’s impulsive personality, combined with his general disregard for the establishment, made predicting US responses to North Korean provocations—and later overtures—almost futile. In late 2017, amid North Korean provocations, Trump had pledged “fire and fury”; in 2018, he took credit for the nascent inter-Korean dialogue in a tweet, “Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North?” The kind of high-profile diplomacy between the United States and North Korea, many believed, would have been challenging if it were not for Trump.

The North Korean threat of a missile strike against Guam and the specter of preventive strikes stimulated discussions about South Korea’s nuclearization and alliance posture. Suggestions for bolstering nuclear deterrence varied within the conservative camp, with the mainstream voices pushing for redeploying tactical nuclear weapons and others calling for joint capitalization of US strategic assets akin to NATO’s nuclear sharing.37 The key difference in these two approaches was that the latter will guarantee information sharing, joint decision-making, and joint command-and-control in case of use. As debates about nuclearization gained steam, progressives emphasized the growing strains in the US-South Korean alliance: unilateral actions by the Trump administration were spawning suspicion and harming its legitimacy—and therefore sustainability.38 If most discussions about nuclearization were limited to alliance-based arrangements, already on the fringes of the conservative wing, calls for self-nuclearization were brewing.

During this period, the Trump administration continued to refer to North Korea as a “rogue regime”—in public speeches at the UN General Assembly as well as in official documents such as the 2017 National Security Strategy. In it, Washington detailed four pillars of “America First” policy: 1) protection of the American people, homeland, and the American way of life; 2) promotion of American prosperity; 3) preservation of peace through strength; and 4) advancement of American influence. These pillars linked American domestic strength to its performance overseas, subtly redefining “America First” by rejecting implications of isolationism and embracing, instead, a version of internationalism. Within this broader picture, the document also reaffirms Trump’s position on North Korea, namely that the United States is ready to use “overwhelming” force against Pyongyang.

The incendiary rhetoric prompted accusations of war mongering among South Korean progressives, who drew parallels between Trump’s labeling of “rogue states” to the former president Bush’s “axis of evil” discourse in 2002.39 Alarmed, a Kyunghyang Shinmun editorial on September 20 went so far as to liken Trump to a “thug,” threatening war at the very institution aimed at preserving peace, the United Nations.40 Progressive narratives in this period also worried about Trump’s escalatory approach to broader regional security issues—most evidently against another “rogue state,” China—and its implications for peace on the peninsula. Hankyoreh warned in this light that Korea may be the greatest victim of this “new Cold War.”41

Conservatives welcomed Trump’s aggressiveness and “maximum pressure” strategy. A Donga editorial, for instance, portrayed his UN remarks as “principled realism,” aimed at diplomatic maneuver.42 Immediately following his speech, Secretary of Defense James Mattis subtly contradicted it to send a mixed—but according to Donga—calculated signal. At the same time, conservative outlets noted the growing gulf between the Trump and Moon administrations’ positions on North Korea. The 2017 NSS advocates strengthening US missile defense systems in Asia, which directly contradicts Moon’s “three no’s” principles. Trump’s readiness to use force equally challenges Moon’s “no war” stance. Ultimately, Seoul will have to confront these contradictions and choose a side—on North Korea as well as the broader developments concerning China.

Following the Pyeongchang Olympics—during which frictions persisted as the US delegation protested the North’s participation in subtle ways—Trump accepted Kim’s invitation for a summit. He tweeted in affirmation, “Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!” The surprise was palpable across ideological lines, albeit varying levels of enthusiasm. Progressives imagined a “big deal” on North Korea, praising Kim’s practicality and Trump’s bold decision-making. Meanwhile, conservatives worried about the prospects of abandonment. A Chosun editorial, for example, noted the possibility of a deal in which the North agrees to denuclearize in exchange for the US ending its alliance with the South.43 Many variations of such a deal were conceivable, including Trump agreeing to lift sanctions for Pyongyang to dismantle its intercontinental ballistic missile program. By and large, however, celebrations of Moon’s diplomatic competence overwhelmed calls for caution.

On June 12, Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un met in Singapore. Marking the first-ever US-North Korean summit, the two leaders shook hands and jointly announced the Singapore declaration. The declaration reaffirmed Kim’s agreement to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” in exchange for Trump’s commitment to provide “security guarantees,” the details of which remained unspecified. The declaration also welcomed the “establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.” Toward that end, Trump announced his willingness to halt US-South Korean military exercises, which he described as “provocative.”

Partisan debates centered around one key aspect of the Singapore Declaration: Trump’s unilateral decision to halt joint military exercises with South Korea. If progressives saw it as a part of any “comprehensive” trajectory toward peace, conservatives deemed it a natural path for the North to become recognized as a nuclear-armed state. According to Kyunghyang, the summit provided the critical first step, allowing the two leaders to build rapport as well as cease any provocative activities—a moratorium on testing for the North, military exercises for the United States.44 Chosun, on the other hand, remarked that the Declaration was the “worst outcome for South Korea,” as Trump signaled his willingness to undermine the alliance in return for small, but immediate gains.

As working-level talks floundered, partisans engaged in a broader debate about the right course of action forward. For the progressives, the most viable approach was tit-for-tat disarmament, in which Pyongyang’s dismantlement of nuclear facilities and ICBMs are rewarded with partial sanctions relief, such as the reopening of KIC operations. The North’s “denuclearization measures” and the US “corresponding measures” must be executed in lock step with each other to generate synergy toward peace. For the conservatives, the only sustainable approach was based on principles of complete and verifiable denuclearization that leave no room for Pyongyang’s reneging, which it has done in the past. This requires, among others, a united front of Washington and Seoul to push for more-than-symbolic concessions from Pyongyang.

In hindsight, the second Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump was set up for failure: the ambiguities of the Singapore Declaration and the tensions from the working-level talks rendered expectations implausibly high and approaches too divisive. When Trump walked away from the negotiation—asserting “no deal is better than a bad deal”—partisans in South Korea rushed to assess Moon’s performance as a facilitator and draw lessons for Seoul. In conservative coverage, Moon’s key flaw was failing to clarify denuclearization as the only answer to sanctions relief, giving Pyongyang the impression that it could get away with its gambit.45 Progressives, meanwhile, elevated Moon’s role as the middleman once again, holding onto their beliefs that the two parties will eventually return to the negotiating table.46 As days went by, however, any positive spin the progressives had churned were shadowed by the dread of the returning status quo in US-North Korean relations.

Conclusion

The years 2016-2019 marked a sea change in South Korean foreign policy. Park’s untimely exit and Moon’s “candlelight” mandate meant that on various dimensions of foreign policy—where the executive has significant prerogatives—Seoul made notable reversals, departures, and advances. Their implications are many and still to be clarified, on questions of South Korea’s relations with its friends and foes as well as place in the region.

The botched trustpolitik and the succeeding “Moonshine” generated some notable headlines as images of Pyongyang shifted from an untamed provocateur to a long-lost brother. Though Moon’s activism helped escape the specter of war, its impact on the status of disarmament, denuclearization, and diplomacy remains hotly debated. Crucially, South Korea’s alliance with the United States was more tested during this period than ever, as Trump’s “America First” foreign policy in many ways dissolved existing ideological commitments. The most prominent evidence in this regard were the growing calls on the fringes of the conservative party for self-nuclearization, which saw US nuclear guarantees as no longer reliable. Partisan narratives reflected the volatility of the times.

More predictable, perhaps, were the developments surrounding China and Japan. By faulting Park’s authoritarian politics, Moon could seek foreign policy reversals in the name of “candlelight” rehabilitation: recovering relations with China over the THAAD dispute with his “three no’s” compromise and asserting procedural illegitimacy of South Korea’s agreements with Japan on history issues. Though Moon attempted to nuance his decisions—maintaining existing THAAD deployments and choosing not to overturn Park’s diplomatic and military commitments with Japan—the outcomes were as expected.



1. Park Geun-hye, “A New Kind of Korea,” Foreign Affairs, September/October 2011.

2. Chosun Ilbo, February 13, 2016.

3. Joonang Ilbo, January 11, 2016.

4. Chosun Ilbo, January 11, 2016.

5. Hankyoreh, January 10, 2016.

6. Joongang Ilbo, February 12, 2016.

7. Chosun Ilbo, February 17, 2016.

8. Hankyoreh,February 11, 2016.

9. Kyunghyang Shinmun, February 11, 2016.

10. Donga Ilbo, September 13, 2016.

11. Donga Ilbo, September 14, 2016.

12. Hankyoreh, September 13, 2016.

13. Chosun Ilbo,September 10, 2016.  Donga Ilbo, September 28, 2016.

14. Joongang Ilbo, November 10, 2016.

15. Chosun Ilbo, November 10, 2016.

16. Donga Ilbo, Febuary 17, 2016.

17. Joongang Ilbo, February 18, 2016.

18. Chosun Ilbo, July 14, 2016.

19. Hankyoreh, October 31, 2017, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/816876.html

20. Kookmin Ilbo, October 31, 2017, http://news.kmib.co.kr/article/view.asp?arcid=0923840896&code=11171111&cp=nv

21. Chosun Ilbo, December 18, 2017, https://www.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2017/12/17/2017121701428.html

22. Kookimin Ilbo, December 17, 2017, http://news.kmib.co.kr/article/view.asp?arcid=0923868202&code=11171111&cp=nv

23. Kyunghyang Shinmun, December 15, 2017, https://www.khan.co.kr/opinion/editorial/article/201712152058015

24. Hankyoreh, December 15, 2017, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/823751.html

25. Hankyoreh, December 27, 2017, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/825308.html

26. Joongang Ilbo, December 28, 2017, https://www.joongang.co.kr/article/22239942#home

27. Kookmin Ilbo, December 27, 2017, http://news.kmib.co.kr/article/view.asp?arcid=0923874552&code=11171111&cp=nv

28. Chosun Ilbo, January 1, 2018, https://www.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2018/01/09/2018010903084.html; Joongang Ilbo, January 1, 2018, https://www.joongang.co.kr/article/22272366#home

29. Kyunghyang Shinmun, January 9, 2018, https://m.khan.co.kr/opinion/editorial/article/201801092048005; Hankyoreh, January 9, 2018, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/827010.html

30. Hankyoreh, October 30, 2018, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/PRINT/868040.html

31. Chosun Ilbo, October 31, 2018, https://www.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2018/10/30/2018103004307.html; Joongang Ilbo, October 31, 2018, https://www.joongang.co.kr/article/23080572#home

32. Joongang Ilbo, January 8, 2018, https://www.joongang.co.kr/article/22265581

33. Hankyoreh, January 7, 2018, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/826641.html

34. Chosun Ilbo, January 10, 2018, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/826641.html

35. Segye Ilbo, April 30, 2018, http://www.segye.com/newsView/20180430006951

36. Chosun Ilbo, September 20, 21018, https://www.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2018/09/19/2018091904038.html

37. Segye Ilbo, August 14, 2017, https://www.segye.com/newsView/20170814002695; Maeil Kyeongjae, August 15, 2017, https://www.mk.co.kr/opinion/editorial/view/2017/08/545744/

38. Kyunghyang Shinmun, August 14, 2017, https://www.khan.co.kr/opinion/editorial/article/201708142035005

39. Hankyoreh, September 20, 2017, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/811840.html

40. Kyunghyang Shinmun, September 20, 2017, https://www.khan.co.kr/opinion/editorial/article/201709202045015

41. Hankyoreh, December 19, 2017, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/824209.html

42. Donga Ilbo, September 21, 2017, https://www.donga.com/news/3/all/20170920/86431214/1

43. Chosun Ilbo, March 10, 2018, https://www.donga.com/news/3/all/20170920/86431214/1

44. Kyunghyang Shinmun, June 12, 2018, https://www.khan.co.kr/opinion/editorial/article/201806122259005

45. Joongang Ilbo, March 2, 2019, https://www.joongang.co.kr/article/23399558#home

46. Hankyoreh, March 1, 2019, https://www.hani.co.kr/arti/opinion/editorial/884199.html

Now Reading Candlelight Mandate, Moonshine Diplomacy, and Partisan Narratives