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Letter from the Editors
EFFORTS OVER DECADES to address the risks of a nuclear-armed North Korea, and go beyond to building a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, have been marked by cycles of high hopes and apparent progress, followed by backsliding and frustration on all sides. The perilous events of 2017 appeared to set in motion yet another iteration of that cycle, beginning with provocative nuclear and missile tests by Pyongyang, followed by a breathtaking war of words between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump that appeared to be a prelude to real war. All that changed in 2018 with a series of surprise summits between the leaders of North and South Korea, as well as between Trump and Kim. Perhaps predictably, disappointment once again set in following the “no deal” summit in early 2019 between Trump and Kim in Hanoi.
What potentially sets apart the current push to resolve the peninsula’s myriad problems — the nuclear issue foremost — is the unique role of Moon Jae-in, South Korean president since May 10, 2017. His peace initiative — a driving force in shaping the dialogue not only between the two Koreas but also between Washington and Pyongyang — has placed Moon as the “man in the middle” in the formidable dynamics playing out between Kim and Trump. Moreover, Moon’s ambitions go well beyond the issues that top the agenda for US policy-makers and encompass an overarching vision for the Korean Peninsula.
In our cover package, we have tapped the insights of leading scholars and practitioners of inter-Korean relations who participated in a conference on April 4, co-organized by the Yonsei Institute for North Korean Studies and the Korea Institute for National Unification and with financial support from the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism and the Asia Research Fund. Together, these articles explore and assess Moon’s peace initiative midway through his presidency.
Elsewhere in this issue, our Features section includes a Russian view of the Korean Peninsula situation; a piece by a former Australian foreign minister on what might follow denuclearization of North Korea; an analysis of the results of Thailand’s tarnished return to democratic elections in March after the coup in 2014; a reflection on the 100th anniversary of the March 1 Movement in Korea; and an examination of how a relatively obscure Australian regulator could upend the global debate about the growing power of online platforms such as Facebook and Google, and their impact on data security and privacy.
Our Debate section focuses on the divergentviews of Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative,and whether it will ultimately benefit orharm the developing countries it targets. Our InFocus section looks at the relatively neglectedtopic of Europe’s role in addressing potential conflictsin Asia, providing a reminder that the rivalrybetween China and the US isn’t the only game intown. Our Book Review section, as always, highlightssome of the best reads on the region.
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