I just returned from Korea as part of a bipartisan Congressional delegation of former members of Congress. Just one week after our delegation returned from Korea, President Trump touched down. President Trump’s crossing into the DMZ and meeting with President Kim Jong Un is an historic moment. They met in the location where the armistice was signed, which took almost three years to settle.
No doubt, it’s an historic moment. We just can’t let it be historic theater.
While we were in Seoul, we met with Prime Minister Lee, former Prime Minister Lee Hong Koo, NGOs, women leaders, cabinet ministers, members of faith-based communities, corporate leaders and students from Yonsei University.
They all seemed to agree—open dialogue is a good thing.
Reducing tensions? Obviously a good thing.
What we need is a long-term agreement. Granted, that will involve a lot of staff, a lot of work, and a lot of digging. It will require high-level meetings. That means it’s time to drop the tweets and avoid histrionic theater.
But, and this is a big ‘but,’ giving Kim Jong Un, a ruthless dictator, an international platform is risky at best.
It’s a big propaganda win for North Korea.
I’ve been there. I met with students and women, and the feeling was, don’t give this dictator a dramatic platform
At Women’s Campaign International, the organization I founded more than 20 years ago to empower women worldwide, we work with women around the world. Meeting with women in South Korea, our fears are shared:
Diplomacy is really important and Trump sucks at it.
The alternative dispute resolution that’s necessary to improve the global conscience and understanding must also be applied to his tweets. His tweets must be both moderated and modulated.
My first meeting in Korea was with former Prime Minister Lee Hong Koo, a highly respected moderate. He explained to me how the generations who descend from the tens of thousands of Koreans who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki continue to take denuclearization seriously as a part of their personal and national identities.
In contrast, when we met with students from Yonsei University, I was surprised by the lack of urgency among them with regard to denuclearization. These students have lived with the ‘back and forth’ their whole lives and seemed numb to the conversation. The next day, I served as the moderator for a high-level panel discussion on denuclearization sponsored by the Federation of Korean Industries (FKI). Panelists included two former members of Congress, the President of Yonsei University, and former Korean Ambassador to the United States, Ho-Young Ahn. Over the course of discussions, three key themes emerged:
The White House is playing by different rules that few seem to understand. Trump’s 20 wobbly steps into North Korea were a big propaganda win for Kim Jong Un. If we can take this historic moment and translate it diplomatically into serious denuclearization of the situation, as well as the propaganda, then we all win.
Stop the tweets. Stop the theater. Stop the showmen. Capture this historic moment before it is diffused.