Special Forum

In exploring South Korea’s transformation under Moon Jae-in, the discussions in Washington DC two weeks after Moon took office provide a useful starting point. Koreans and Americans exchanged thoughts and raised doubts on the prospects of ROK-US relations. Naturally, a major element was the effort by Koreans to report on recent developments and clarify uncertainties arising from Moon’s shifting policy directions. Another indisputable element was the skepticism expressed by Americans toward Moon’s personnel choices and agenda. This is a time when many view Seoul as at a crossroads: reluctant to follow Washington as closely (especially with Trump in charge); eager to find a new path forward with Pyongyang, particularly as Beijing applies unprecedented pressure to change course (with Moscow’s support); and tempted to press Tokyo anew over the “comfort women” issue despite realist appeals to step up trilateral defense ties. It is premature to draw conclusions on any of these possibilities, but the exchanges in DC can alert us to many themes likely to take center stage in the coming days.

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