Impressions from South Korea, Post-Summit

Aug 1, 2018

Five days after the historic summit between President Trump and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, a group of Asian scholars arrived in Seoul. Mary McCarthy, associate professor of politics and international relations at Drake University, was among them. She says the group was surprised by the optimism in South Korea surrounding the summit, and what it could mean for relations between North Korea and the western world.

"I think that we have seen so much skepticism, so much criticism in the U.S., but in South Korea the mood was very different," says McCarthy.

She says South Korean President Moon Jae-in sees himself as a peacemaker, and while the traditional approach to diplomacy with North Korea may have been stood on its head, McCarthy says President Moon seems to favor the approach.

"I think that Moon was quite pleased with this," says McCarthy. "It seemed to be a real commitment from the U.S. president that I want to see a change in this relationship, that I don't want us to have a military action, that I want us to be on a path towards peace."

McCarthy says South Koreans view the North Korean leader as someone interested in economic development, and they believe they can win him over with practical incentives. She adds that while North Korea probably doesn't have any intention of de-nuclearizing, the South Koreans see the summit and meetings between the two Koreas as the beginning of a very long process.

In this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer also talks with McCarthy about her visit to the Demilitarized Zone, the Ministry of Reunification, and the return of the remains of U.S. soldiers killed in the Korean War.