South Korea’s Moon calls for ‘bold decisions’ ahead of Kim summit

North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un (C) gestures as he meets with US President Donald Trump (R) at the start of their historic US-North Korea summit, at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore. (File/AFP)
Updated 11 September 2018
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South Korea’s Moon calls for ‘bold decisions’ ahead of Kim summit

  • President Moon Jae-in’s comments come days before he’s to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the third time this year
  • Moon said Kim and Trump must think broadly and “make bold decisions” to move the diplomacy forward

SEOUL, South Korea: South Korea’s president on Tuesday urged both North Korea and the United States to “make bold decisions” to break a deepening diplomatic impasse over the North’s nuclear ambitions, saying he’ll continue to act as mediator.
President Moon Jae-in’s comments come days before he’s to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for the third time this year to discuss how to achieve denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Moon said the summit must lead to another “big step” toward denuclearization.
The talks come at a crucial moment in the overall diplomacy, which is currently stuck amid recriminations between Washington and Pyongyang on how to follow through on vows made at a summit in June between Kim and President Donald Trump to rid the North of its nuclear weapons.
During a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, Moon said Kim and Trump must think broadly and “make bold decisions” to move the diplomacy forward and get North Korea to dismantle its nuclear arsenal.
“North Korea must carry out its nuclear dismantling and the United States must take a corresponding step,” Moon said. “Under such a process, the two countries must pull back their deep-rooted mutual distrust caused by their 70 years of hostile relations.”
North Korea has dismantled its nuclear and rocket engine testing sites, but US officials have demanded more serious steps. Kim has reportedly said that his efforts must be reciprocated by corresponding US measures such as a joint declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War.
Moon said South Korea has no choice but to mediate between the two countries to promote dialogue, saying both Trump and Kim have asked him to play such a role. He wants “genuine talks” between Washington and Pyongyang to resume soon.
During a visit to Seoul on Tuesday, Steve Biegun, the new US special envoy on North Korea, stressed the need to maintain nuclear diplomacy.
“We have some hard work to do. But we also have tremendous opportunity created by President Trump, by President Moon and by Chairman Kim. We need to do everything we can to make the most of this moment of opportunity,“ Biegun said at the start of his meeting with South Korean nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon.
South Korean officials said Kim recently told them that he remains committed to a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and said he still has faith in Trump. The White House said Monday that Trump received a request from Kim to schedule a second meeting between them to follow up on their June summit and that planning is in motion to make it happen.
But it’s unclear whether deadlocked nuclear diplomacy will be resolved anytime soon. During his earlier summits with Trump and Moon, Kim made vague disarmament pledges without revealing a detailed road map or timetable for his denuclearization process.
The Koreas will hold military talks on Thursday and are pushing to open a liaison office at a North Korean border city on Friday, Seoul officials said, as part of cooperation efforts between the rivals ahead of the summit. 
Thursday’s military talks will deal with issues to ease tensions along their border, such as disarming a jointly controlled area at Panmunjom, removing front-line guard posts and conducting joint searches for soldiers missing from the Korean War, according to South Korea’s Defense Ministry.
When Kim met South Korean envoys last week, the sides agreed to try to find ways to build up mutual trust and prevent armed clashes between their militaries, according to South Korean officials.


‘Pyongyang not the enemy’: South Koreans fed up with military service

Updated 7 min 12 sec ago
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‘Pyongyang not the enemy’: South Koreans fed up with military service

  • US President Donald Trump is due to meet the North’s Kim Jong Un in Hanoi for a high-profile summit
  • The bulk of South Korea’s 600,000-strong military are conscripts, who are required to serve for some 20 months

SEOUL: Namgung Jin is anxious as he awaits the start of his military service in South Korea — almost two years in uniform guarding against the nuclear-armed neighbor to the north, with the two countries technically still at war.
But by the time the 19-year-old college student enlists on March 5, just five days after the upcoming US-North Korea summit, some analysts say the Korean War may have been officially declared over.
US President Donald Trump is due to meet the North’s Kim Jong Un in Hanoi for a high-profile summit to make progress on denuclearization of the peninsula, and a possible peace treaty.
If that happens, the future of the South’s controversial conscription system — which forces recruits to serve for months in often remote locations along the militarised border — will likely be up for debate.
For many young South Koreans like Namgung, it will be long overdue.
“I would definitely not want to serve if I were given an option,” he said, describing military service as a “waste of his youth” that delays him securing a job in South Korea’s hyper-competitive society.
Namgung, who was born in 1999 — almost 50 years after the Korean War ended with an armistice — said he rarely associated his service with the threat from the North.
“I’ve never considered North Korea as an enemy,” said Namgung, who studies computer science in Seoul. “I have no harsh feelings against the North. I just think life must be hard for those who live there.”
The bulk of South Korea’s 600,000-strong military are conscripts, who are required to serve for some 20 months.
Almost all able-bodied South Korean men are obliged to fulfil sentry duties, often in remote locations along the heavily militarised border.
Like Namgung, Han Sang-kyu — an 18-year-old who is scheduled to start his military service next year — said he was not hostile to Pyongyang.
“I’ve always considered North and South Koreans one people — I hope the two countries can unify one day,” he said.
Lim Tae-hoon, the director of the Center for Military Human Rights Korea in Seoul, said the Korean War and its legacy are still very much present in the South’s repressive military culture.
“The Korean War started on a Sunday, and a lot of (South) Korean soldiers were off base when the North’s tanks crossed the 38th parallel — the result was traumatic,” Lim told AFP.
“This is inseparable from why today’s soldiers in the South are confined to their bases all the time.”
Until this year conscripts were banned from using mobile phones for security reasons.
A rule that no more than 25 percent of troops can take holiday at the same time means recruits spend long periods of time cooped up together, which has contributed to bullying.
Some 60,000 South Korean recruits are thought to have died since 1953 from a range of causes including suicide, firearm accidents and medical malpractice.
None of them died on the battlefield.
Song Jun-seo, a 18-year-old student who will enlist this year or next, said he wants “some kind of compensation” should the conscription system be abolished after he finishes his service.
“I would be very angry. I don’t want to be the last one to suffer in the system,” he said.
But Kim Dong-yup, an analyst at Kyungnam University, said it was too early to talk about abolishing conscription — and that it will probably take a long time for the country to turn to a volunteer military system, even if the rapprochement with the North progresses.
“North Korea is not the only security threat to the Korean peninsula,” Kim told AFP, citing other neighboring countries and environmental disasters as potential problems.
Some men have taken extreme measures to avoid conscription, including 12 music students who stuffed themselves with protein powder before their medical exam, hoping to be declared too heavy for service.
Others have undergone unnecessary surgery and given themselves broken bones.
Song said he was disappointed by the result of his medical exam earlier this month — he was put in the top category, meaning he will have to serve in the armed forces without question.
“I have a chronic skin condition, so I’d been hoping to be placed in less physically taxing jobs, such as in local government,” Song told AFP.
He said he is scared to join the army because of what has happened to some soldiers while serving.
Song was horrified when he read about a soldier badly injured in 2016 after stepping on a land mine, another relic of the Korean war.
“At least if I were able do the service in local government, I wouldn’t have to worry about the possibility of losing my leg,” he said.