Asan Korea Perspective


Telephone Diplomacy after the South Korean Presidential Election


On May 10, President Moon Jae-in exchanged telephone conversation with US President Donald Trump. President Trump congratulated President Moon on his victory and labeled the ROK-US alliance as a “great alliance.”[1] President Trump also invited President Moon to the United States for a summit meeting, which is now scheduled to take place in June in Washington, DC.[2]

President Moon also had a short conversation with the Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on May 11. President Moon told PM Abe that the majority of the Korean public does not accept the December comfort women agreement. He stated that the two countries must address the history issue but must make every effort to not let history hinder cooperation between South Korea and Japan.[3] The two leaders promised to meet in the near future.

President Moon also received a phone call from Chinese President Xi Jinping on May 11. This was the first time that a Chinese leader called a newly elected Korean president. President Moon assured President Xi that he was aware of Chinese interests and concerns regarding the deployment of THAAD.[4] The two leaders are scheduled to meet in early July during the G20 meeting in Germany. President Moon is also expected to visit China in August to commemorate 25 years of normalized relations between South Korea and China.[5]

North Korea’s Missile Test


On May 14, just 4 days after the inauguration of President Moon, North Korea test-fired another missile, which flew 780 kilometers (30 minutes) before falling into the East Sea.[6] According to the Ministry of Defense, the missile was an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). This was the first time that a North Korean missile reached an altitude of over 2,000 kilometers.[7] The previous record was 1413 kilometers, set by the Musudan test in June 2016.[8] There are concerns that the North also tested its re-entry technology, which allows the warhead’s stable re-entry into the atmosphere.[9] If true, this would suggest a major advancement in the North’s ICBM technology.

President Moon convened the National Security Council (NSC) and strongly condemned North Korea for the missile test and for threatening regional and world peace and security. He also ordered the NSC to hasten the development Korea Air Missile Defense (KAMD), Korea’s indigenous missile defense system.[10]

Kim Kwan-jin, interim Blue House National Security Advisor (NSA), spoke on the phone with the US NSA, H.R. McMaster. The two strongly denounced the recent test and vowed to prepare for any type of provocation from the North.[11] Defense Minister Han Min-goo stated that the South is fully ready to launch a pre-emptive attack should the North show any sign of launching a missile attack.[12]

Reform Initiatives


President Moon has expressed a strong desire to reform the prosecutor’s office. The reform blueprint includes creating a high-level corruption investigation committee, with independent authority. The administration is also proposing to reduce the number of top posts by half and filling them with outside experts.[13]

The head of prosecutor’s office submitted his resignation when it became apparent that Cho Kuk was appointed as the Senior Civil Affairs Secretary.[14] The head of the Seoul District Prosecution and the Head of Criminal Affairs in the Justice Department also submitted their resignation when a newly created Anti-Corruption Secretary was appointed to investigate a new set of bribery charges.[15]

The investigation will continue, however. Cho stated that “the reform should end before the (regional) election scheduled for June next year. [16]

Chaebol reform appears to be led by the Fair Trade Commission. Kim Sang-jo was appointed as its head. Kim said during the press conference on May 18 that “the focus should be on the four biggest firms in South Korea… [in order] to reduce over-concentration….”[17] He added that the aggregate concentration department will be promoted as a bureau to enhance oversight and analyze unfair trade by large corporations.[18]

Key Appointments


The newly elected president Moon Jae-in has announced key appointments for foreign policy. The appointment of the Minister of Foreign Affairs is gaining quite a bit of attention given that Kang Kyung-wha would be the first female for this top-level position if she is confirmed. The make-up also suggests that the new administration will place greater emphasis on a more dovish stance on foreign policy and national security.


Name Current Occupation Year of Birth Hometown Education
Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kim Dong-yeon President of Ajou University 1957 Eumsung County, Chungbuk

Ph.D. (University of Michigan)

Minister of Foreign Affairs

Kang Kyung-wha Special policy advisor to the UN Secretary-General 1955 Seoul Ph.D. (University of Massachusetts)
Vice Chair of National Economic Advisory Council Kim Kwang Doo Chair-Professor at Sogang University 1947 Naju, Jeonnam

Ph.D. (University of Hawaii)

National Security Advisor to the President

Chung Eui-yong Head of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) 1946 Seoul

B.A. (Seoul National University)

Chief of Staff for Policy

Jang Ha-sung Professor at Korea University 1953 Gwangju

Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania)

Special Advisor on Diplomacy and Security

Moon Chung-in Honorary Professor at Yonsei University 1951 Jeju

Ph.D. (University of Maryland)

Special Envoy to the U.S.

Hong Seok-hyun Head of Korean Association of Newspapers 1949 Seoul Ph.D. (Stanford University)


1 “문재인-트럼프 첫 통화…트럼프 ‘한미, 단순히 좋은 동맹 아닌 위대한 동맹관계’,” 중앙일보, 2017년 5월 10일.

2 “트럼프 ‘문재인 대통령 방미 초청,” 경향신문, 2017년 5월 11일; “문 대통령, 트럼프 만난다 … 내달 말에 한미 정상회담,” 경향신문, 2017년 5월 16일.

3 “문재인 대통령, 日 아베 총리와 25분간 첫 통화 ‘위안부 합의, 우리 국민 대다수가 수용 못해 … 역사 직시해야’,” 경향신문, 2017년 5월 11일.

4 “전화 걸어온 시진핑엔 ‘사드 소통 희망’,” 경향신문, 2017년 5월 11일.

5 “문재인-시진핑 7월 첫회담, 8월 방중 추진,” 중앙일보, 2017년 5월 18일.

6 “국방부 ‘北 신형미사일, 성능향상 IRBM급 … ICBM에 못미쳐’,” 조선일보, 2017년 5월 16일.

7 “북 시험 발사 미사일, 최대 고도 2000㎞ㆍ비행 시간 30분의 의미 … ICBM인가?,” 중앙일보, 2017년 5월 14일.

8 “일 ‘북 미사일 고도 2000km 처음 넘어’ … 1년전 ‘무수단 1413km’ 기록 깨,” 한겨레, 2017년 5월 14일.

9 “북한, 탄도미사일 쏘며 대기권 재진입도 실험,” 중앙일보, 2017년 5월 16일.

10 “文 대통령 ‘북한, 태도 변화 있어야 대화 가능” 미사일 도발에 엄중 경고’,” 조선일보, 2017년 5월 14일.

11 “靑김관진 실장-美맥마스터, 北 미사일 관련 긴급 통화,” 중앙일보, 2017년 5월 14일.

12 “한민구 국방 ‘北 미사일 공격 징후 확실하면 선제타격’,” 조선일보, 2017년 5월 16일.

13 “[속도 내는 검찰 개혁]검찰, 사상 초유 수뇌부 공백에 당혹 ‘개혁 공포증’,” 경향신문, 2017년 5월 19일.

14 “대통령 검찰개혁 의지 확인한 김수남 “소임 마쳤다” 오후 전격 사의 공개,” 중앙일보, 2017년 5월 12일.

15 “‘돈봉투 만찬’ 누가 왜 마련했나…경위부터 캔다,” 한국일보, 2017년 5월 18일; “검찰 ‘지도부 집단 공백’ 패닉,” 한국일보, 2017년 5월 19일.

16 “조국 민정수석실, 검찰 압박 전진기지로,” 중앙일보, 2017년 5월 19일.

17 “4대 그룹에 엄격하게 법 집행… 대기업 전담 조직도 만들겠다,” 조선일보, 2017년 5월 19일; “부서 확대해 4대그룹 집중감시… “재벌 해체는 아니다,” 동아일보, 2017년 5월 19일.

18 Ibid.

Contributing Staff(in alphabetical order): Han Minjeong, John J. Lee
Editor: J. James Kim