Has Moon Jae-In's Catholicism Influenced His Diplomacy?

His Approach Mirrors That of Pope Francis

South Korean President Moon Jae-In speaks during a press conference marking his first 100 days in office at the presidential house in Seoul, August 2017.  Jong Yeon-Je / REUTERS

Earlier this month, U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter to criticize the South Korean leadership for “appeasement” of North Korea. In a dig at South Korean President Moon Jae-in days earlier, Trump likewise cautioned that “Talking is not the Answer!” in reference to Moon’s preference for negotiations with Pyongyang. It is possible that the South Korean president is so focused on talks not only out of electoral commitments, but also because of religious conviction. Moon is a practicing Catholic, and although religious identity is not always an appropriate prism for assessing political decision-making, it may be relevant in this case.

In his four years as pontiff, Pope Francis has been emphatic about the right and wrong ways to settle international conflicts. It is unlikely that any believer could escape the implications of his “diplomacy of encounter,” which prioritizes dialogue and physical meetings between opposing parties to promote

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