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Full text of President Moon Jae-in's joint written interview with Yonhap, six global news agencies

Diplomacy 18:10 June 26, 2019

SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- The following is the second part of an unofficial translation of President Moon Jae-in's joint written interview with Yonhap News Agency and six other global news agencies: AFP, AP, Kyodo, Reuters, TASS, Xinhua (in alphabetical order of company names). This transcript was released by his office Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday.

Q 7. Easing Military Tensions

Last year we have seen easing of military tensions on the peninsula. Recently, the DPRK has made several tests which, however, did not lead to a serious escalation. How do you think the situation will develop in the coming year? What steps is the Republic of Korea going to take? (TASS)

A 7: The easing of military tension on the Korean Peninsula will be carried out on two tracks: one through denuclearization linked to North Korea-U.S. talks and the other through the alleviation of military tension caused by conventional weapons, a task for both Koreas. Through the Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018, the two Koreas have taken rudimentary measures to reduce military tension. As of now, in line with that inter-Korean agreement reached in the military domain, both Koreas have completely stopped hostile acts in areas along the Military Demarcation Line, demilitarized the Joint Security Area, withdrawn guards posts from the DMZ, exhumed the remains of war dead and surveyed waterways for the joint use of the Han River estuary.

The inter-Korean agreement in the military domain is particularly important in the process of denuclearization since it dramatically reduces the possibility of an accidental military skirmish between the two Koreas, thereby creating an environment conducive to dialogue concerning denuclearization. It can also be said that, thanks to this agreement, the North's firing of short-range missiles has neither led to a sudden hike in tensions on the Korean Peninsula nor a breakdown of the denuclearization dialogue.

If inter-Korean agreement in the military domain is properly implemented, it will allow us to proceed to the stage of further enhancing transparency concerning military postures by exchanging pertinent information through the inter-Korean joint military committee and observing military drills and training. Furthermore, in line with progress in denuclearization, we will be able to advance to the point of disarming threatening weapons such as the long-range North Korean artillery targeting our capital Seoul and the short-range missiles that both Koreas possess.

Q 8. Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation

Does the South still think trading the resumption of inter-Korean economic projects (Kaesong factory park, Mount Kumgang tours) with the closure of the Yongbyon complex would be a fair exchange that could build trust and momentum for bigger things?

One of the main components of a comprehensive settlement of the situation on the peninsula is inter-Korean relations and cross-border economic projects. Some say that their development is now difficult because of the deadlock in the negotiations between the United States and the DPRK. How do you see the prospects for the further development of such projects? (AP and Tass)

A 8: I've never contended that the resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation projects had to be exchanged for the dismantlement of the North's Yongbyon nuclear complex. However, inter-Korean economic cooperation projects, such as the resumption of operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex, are appealing to both Koreas and the United States as well in that they could help reduce the burden of the international community, including the United States, and present a look ahead to the kind of bright future that could greet the North should it complete denuclearization. This is why I proposed to President Trump that he actively utilize inter-Korean economic cooperation as one of the corresponding measures to North Korea's substantive denuclearization steps.

For the proper development and elevation of inter-Korean relations, various economic cooperation projects have to ensue. To this end, international economic sanctions must be lifted, and there has to be substantive progress in North Korea's denuclearization before sanctions can be removed.

All the ongoing inter-Korean cooperation projects carried out so far have been done in compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions without a single violation. The Government of the Republic of Korea maintains the direction of its policy that aims to facilitate North Korea-United States dialogue by advancing inter-Korean relations within the framework of sanctions.

In order to continue the long journey to realize complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, it is indeed necessary to flesh out an initiative for mutual prosperity. The Government of the Republic of Korea will endeavor to create such circumstances as quickly as possible.

Q 9. South Korea's Domestic Issues

With political divisions mounting and the ruling party and opposition at loggerheads, do you feel your term in office so far has fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of the candlelight protestors? What about your promises of a change to South Korean politics? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were sworn in? Whatever happened to chaebol reform? (AFP)

A 9: All of the achievements of the Republic of Korea have been made by the people's strength, and the candlelight rallies symbolize that strength. My Administration was launched with the people's aspiration reflected in the light of those candles. It's still the driving force that helps my Administration move forward.

Many changes have started to take place and are now underway. At the heart of these changes lie the spirit of popular sovereignty and the value of fairness and justice. Many changes have been achieved in the process of normalizing the law enforcement authorities that used to lord over the people and, moreover, by the anti-corruption reforms that eliminated the deceit and privilege that destroyed the people's lives as well as other unreasonable practices.

By overcoming the past practices in which social and economic opportunities and benefits were concentrated in the hands of a few people, we are endeavoring to build a country where everyone prospers together. Today, the world's main interests lie in overcoming structural low growth, economic polarization and inequality. In these aspects, Korea aims to build an innovative, inclusive nation and seek changes in various areas. A case in point is the reform of conglomerates to build a fair economic order.

Conglomerates and large companies in Korea have led Korea's high economic growth and will continue to play a significant role in its economic growth. What we intend to reform is the opaque and unfair side of the economy resulting from a system dominated by conglomerates. This constitutes making our democracy broader, deeper and more solid by realizing democracy in the economy as well.

The people's aspirations expressed through the candlelight rallies cannot be realized all at once. However, the Korean Government will continue to devote itself to the tasks and missions given to it until they are completed in the type of democratic and mature manner demonstrated during those nightly rallies.

Q 10. South Korea-Japan Relations

Is the South Korean government considering asking the International Court of Justice to rule on the matter of compensation for Korean victims of forced wartime labor, asking victims' lawyers to postpone seizure of Japanese companies' assets, or forming a foundation? Will you be making any proposal on the issue to Japanese Prime Minister Abe during the G-20 summit? (Kyodo)

A 10: I have repeatedly expressed my thoughts concerning Korea-Japan relations on several occasions. First, Korea-Japan ties are very important, and they should continue to advance in a more forward-looking way. Second, the governments of our two countries have to pool our wisdom to prevent historical issues from damaging forward-looking cooperative relations. In this regard, I don't believe that the Japanese Government's position differs from our own.

History issues are not of my Government's own making. Rather, they stem from the unfortunate history that actually existed in the past. Even though Korea and Japan signed treaties, the wounds from the past are surfacing anew as international norms develop and awareness of human rights is enhanced, and, above all, it should be accepted that the victims are still suffering from the pain. At the end of the day, our two countries' wisdom has to be focused on how to actually heal the victims' pain.

Recently, the Korean Government came up with a viable solution to the issue of forced labor during World War II and conveyed it to the Japanese Government. As the Government of a democratic nation, we respected the verdict rendered by the Supreme Court in the process of formulating the proposal and compiled the opinion of various groups within the society that have maintained longstanding interest in this issue, including requests from the victims. This is a measure that will help foster reconciliation between the stakeholders and move Korea-Japan relations one step forward.

For my part, the door is always open for dialogue between our two leaders in order to advance Korea-Japan relations, including over the issue mentioned above. Whether we can take advantage of the opportunity presented by the G-20 summit depends on Japan.

Q 11. Xi's North Korea Visit

There is some optimism that Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to North Korea will help break the deadlock in the denuclearization negotiations. On the other hand, some analysts say China will use North Korea's nuclear issue as leverage in its tense relations with the U.S., which will solidify the Beijing-Pyongyang alliance and weaken South Korea's position. Cheong Wa Dae earlier said it has closely discussed Xi's North Korea visit with China. Was there any message exchanged between the two Koreas on denuclearization via the Chinese leader? If so, what was the substance of the exchange? What role do you expect China to play in the North's denuclearization through Xi's visit? (Yonhap)

A 11: Since March 2018, Chairman Kim Jong-un took part in 13 bilateral summits: five with China, three with the South, two with the United States, and one each with Russia, Singapore and Vietnam. My Government welcomes the fact that North Korea is expanding the scope of its contact with the international community. North Korea becoming a part of the international community constitutes the process of establishing peace.

The ROK and China frequently consult with each other about ways to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese Government fully understands my Administration's approach to the Korean Peninsula peace process, and we are in close cooperation. In this context, my government expressed its opinion that it would be desirable for President Xi Jinping to visit North Korea first before a ROK-China summit. It is to create new momentum amid a lull after the North Korea-United States summit in Hanoi.

I hope that President Xi's visit to North Korea last week will be a turning point that can help resume dialogues between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the United States. At the upcoming G-20 summit, I will be able to meet with President Xi in person and hear about the results of his visit to the North.

Q 12. G-20
What kind of mediator roles do you plan to ask of the leaders of the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and other relevant countries at the G-20 summit amid the deadlocked nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the U.S.? (Kyodo)

A 12: The Korean Peninsula peace process has always progressed amid the cooperation and support of the international community. This is still true today. Denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula constitute a historic paradigm shift that demolishes the world's last remaining Cold War rivalry. In that sense, I take cooperation with the international community very seriously, especially that with the countries directly concerned.

The Republic of Korea and its ally the United States are coordinating a common stance by closely exchanging opinions on all fronts, such as ways to resume dialogue with North Korea at an early date, denuclearization measures that North Korea has to take and corresponding measures to be taken in response. During President Trump's visit to the Republic of Korea scheduled right after the G-20 summit, there will be more in-depth discussions taking place.

China and Russia have continued to play constructive roles so far to peacefully resolve the Korean Peninsula issue. I hope that China and Russia will play specific parts in helping the North resume dialogue at an early stage.

Normalization of North Korea-Japan relations is a must in the process of establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. My Government supports the Japanese Government's stance of pursuing dialogue with the North without preconditions and will actively provide support and cooperate to ensure that a North Korea-Japan summit takes place.

Q 13. South Korea's Economic Potential and Korean Peninsula Peace Process

Many foreign countries say South Korea has high economic potential. What is your opinion on such assessments? Please explain how you think the Korean Peninsula peace process will help realize the country's economic potential, promote prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and change the blueprint for the nation's future? (Yonhap)

A 13: The Republic of Korea is a dynamic country. The country advanced its economy, and at the same time democracy, in a very short period of time on the ruins of war. What is undermining and constraining that dynamism is the structure of the division. This is because conflict and confrontation caused by the division and the Cold War have countenanced corruption, privilege and injustice that put ideology above everything else. This is also because it restricts the people's living space and imagination. The Korean Peninsula peace process is a new opportunity that can reinforce the dynamism inherent in the history of the Republic of Korea.

I am convinced that peace drives the economy. The Korean Peninsula peace process will greatly expand Korea's economic territory by connecting the continent and ocean. Moreover, if the two Koreas develop into a single economic bloc, it will be able to form a single market with 80 million people, surpassing that of the United Kingdom, France and Italy and standing on par with Germany's. It will be an opportunity for huge growth for the economy of not only the two Koreas but of the world.

The Republic of Korea has strong economic fundamentals and attractive investment conditions. "The Korea discount" brought on by the long political and military tension on the Korean Peninsula has been dissolving after the inter-Korean summits last year. Global credit rating agencies are maintaining the ROK's sovereign credit rating at the country's highest level. The spreads on the country's foreign exchange equalization bonds are at historic lows while the credit risks of many countries are rising due to the global economic slowdown. Inbound foreign direct investments also hit a record high.

The revitalization of inter-Korean economic exchanges will contribute to creating a new order of cooperation that leads to peace and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and, moreover, into East Asia. The East Asia Railroad Community initiative encompassing six Northeast Asian nations and the United States, which I proposed last year, was developed based on this idea. The Railroad Community will be able to further develop into an energy community, an economic community and a mechanism for multilateral peace and security for East Asia.
(END)

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