South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed a “peace economy” based on inter-Korean economic cooperation on Aug. 5 as a way of responding to Japan’s trade retaliation measures.
His message signaled a commitment to stepping up the pace of inter-Korean and North Korea-US dialogue and broadening the economy’s scope rather than capitulating to Japan’s attempt to use economic retaliation as leverage to sabotage reconciliation and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
“The areas where the Japanese economy has an advantage over the South Korean one are in economic scale and domestic demand,” President Moon said while presiding over a meeting of senior secretaries and aides at the Blue House that day.
“If we can achieve a peace economy through economic cooperation between South and North, we can instantly close the gap with Japan’s economic advantage,” he said.
In his remarks, he stressed that the South Korean economy could find another way out once the domestic demand market increases to 76 million people in South and North Korea through increased inter-Korean economic cooperation.
“Through this experience [with Japan’s trade retaliation measures], I have gained a renewed awareness of the urgent need for a peace economy,” he continued.
“We can achieve peace and shared prosperity on the Korean Peninsula as well as denuclearization if South and North work together under the conviction that a peace economy is a future that is ours alone, something no one country in the world can possess,” he said.
As if to acknowledge North Korea’s recent short-range ballistic missile test launches and the lack of progress in North Korea-US working level talks on denuclearization, Moon stressed the importance of optimism and patience.“
A peace economy is not something we can be pessimistic about or give up on too easily because of whatever twists and turns arise in inter-Korean and North Korea-US relations,” he said. “Given the many years of antagonism and distrust, it is only possible if we go about restoring trust in one other with dogged commitment.”
Explaining the context behind Moon’s “peace economy” remarks that day, the Blue House said that with one of the aims of the Japanese government’s provocations being to preserve inter-Korean antagonism, his message was meant to clearly signal that this would not succeed.“
The [Shinzo] Abe administration keeps trying to create cracks in the new order of peace on the Korean Peninsula through its economic provocations,” a Blue House official said.
“President Moon was stating his aim of pursuing the Korean Peninsula peace process consistently without being influenced by Japan’s objective,” the official added.Kim Hyun-chong, second deputy chief of the Blue House National Security Office, said on Aug. 2 that “rather than assisting South Korea in its efforts to get the peace process underway, Japan has thrown up roadblocks to that process.”
“Japan opposed delaying the South Korea-US joint military exercises around the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and maintained that sanctions and pressure were the only solution even while dialogue and cooperation with South Korea was underway, and it called for holding drills to prepare Japanese citizens in South Korea for a wartime evacuation,” he noted at the time.
Peace regime means traveling a different path from Japan
Moon also emphasized that the establishment of a peace regime would mean traveling a different path from Japan, which has been focused on maintaining established economic interests in the international community.
“Japan needs to realize that economic power alone is not enough to occupy a leading position in the world,” he said.
“[South Korea] will consistently pursue a free and fair economy and an order of peace and cooperation, and it will uphold universal human values and international norms,” he stressed. A Blue House official explained that his remarks “conveyed the message that we will take a different path within the international community from Japan, which is only a great power economically.”
Moon reiterated his intent to viewing the current situation as an opportunity to change the constitution of the South Korean economy.
“Japan cannot stop our economy from making a leap forward. If anything, [these measures] will be a stimulus that inspires our community to progress into an economic power,” he said.
“We need to take this opportunity to look at ourselves objectively and usher the Republic of Korea another step forward,” he continued.
“I look forward to seeing the administration’s policy commitment adequately reflected in this year’s supplementary budget and next year’s budget.”