The Sunshine Policy – the idea that South Korea should approach North Korea through dialogue, cooperation and reconciliation – has been highly contentious ever since its inception in the late 1990s. Its initiator, former President Kim Dae-Jung, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for reaching out to Pyongyang; at the same time, however, critics have branded the Sunshine Policy as a naive attempt to appease a dangerous dictatorship. Even today the dispute about the right foreign policy approach towards North Korea splits the South Korean political discourse.
One of the leading experts on the Sunshine Policy is Chung-In Moon. For this episode we spoke to him about the history of this policy, whether or not it failed, the philosophical underpinnings of the Sunshine Policy’s supporters and opponents, and his opinion on how South Korea and the international community should approach North Korea.
Chung-In Moon is Professor of Political Science at Yonsei University and Editor-in-Chief of Global Asia. He is also Executive Director of the Kim Dae-Jung Presidential Library and Museum, and previously served as Dean of Yonsei’s Graduate School of International Studies. Professor Moon is currently a member of the Presidential Committee on Unification Preparation of the Park Geun-Hye administration. Previously, under former President Roh Moo-Hyun, Professor Moon also served as Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Northeast Asian Cooperation Initiative and was Ambassador for International Security Affairs on behalf of the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
What is important right now is the denuclearization of North Korea. South Korea, the United States, China, all concerned parties should pay all attention to the resolution of the nuclear issue. If you [mix] the nuclear issue with human rights and opening and reform of North Korea, all those things, nothing will happen. The situation will worsen […] Suppose you raise the issue of human rights and at the same time the nuclear issue, then North Korea will never give up nuclear [weapons]. North Korea perceives the human rights offensive by the United States as a way of shaking the North Korean regime and toppling [it]. Then why would North Korea give up the nuclear weapons?
The interview was recorded on August 12th in Seoul.