The Sunshine Policy: In Defense of Engagement as a Path to Peace in Korea

Moon, a well-known scholar, served as an adviser to Kim Dae-jung, South Korea’s president from 1998 until 2003, and to Roh Moo-hyun, who held the presidency from 2003 until 2008. The two presidents tried to thaw relations with Pyongyang, build trust, and create conditions for gradual change in the North’s political and economic systems that might lead to coexistence and eventually to peaceful unification. Moon blames U.S. President George W. Bush for disrupting those efforts before they had a chance to build on what he claims were initial successes. But to say the policy needed more time is to acknowledge that it depended on more reciprocity from the North and more strategic patience from the United States than could realistically be expected -- not to mention more support from the South Korean public, which proceeded to award the presidency to a hard-liner, Lee Myung-bak, in 2008. Nevertheless, Moon explains the logic of the “sunshine policy” well and calls for its revival, making a strong case that every other option -- military pressure, containment, and waiting for the regime in Pyongyang to collapse -- has failed.

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