Special Forum

As the summit between newly elected Moon Jae-in and Donald Trump draws closer, South Korean newspapers are sharply divided over Moon’s policy posture, its potential impact on relations with the United States and China, as well as the prospects of revising Seoul’s approach to North Korea, which may be at odds with the US approach. Moon spoke on June 15 in honor of the 17th anniversary of the 2000 North-South summit; his special advisor, Moon Chung-in, spoke on June 16 at the Woodrow Wilson Center with what seemed like trial balloons for the summit; and on June 19, Otto Warmbier died just days after being released in a coma from detention in North Korea. The media found a lot to weigh as tensions mounted in advance of the summit. Of the six major daily newspapers, two strongly endorsed the new course anticipated from the Moon administration, while others resisted. On both sides, some expected a “train wreck” in the making. Others appealed for a limited agenda focusing on a process to coordinate approaches rather than open acknowledgement of differences that could endanger ties. Progressives sought assertiveness, conservatives sought caution.

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