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‘Kim desperately wanted to denuclearize,’ Moon writes in memoirs

Ex-president’s assessment of North Korean leader sparks criticism from ruling party

By Kim Arin

Published : May 19, 2024 - 16:15

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Former President Moon Jae-in’s memoirs are displayed on a shelf in a bookstore in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap) Former President Moon Jae-in’s memoirs are displayed on a shelf in a bookstore in Seoul on Sunday. (Yonhap)

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is keeping nuclear weapons strictly for self-defense and has no intention of actually ever using them, former President Moon Jae-in wrote in his memoir published Saturday.

In his first memoir since his presidential term ended in 2022, Moon recalled Kim in his encounters with him as “expressing, time and time again, that nuclear weapons were only for the purpose of guaranteeing safety and that he has no thoughts of ever using them.”

The former Democratic Party of Korea president, who held bilateral summits with the North Korean leader three times in his first year, said “Kim was desperate in his wish to denuclearize, and he was frustrated by the lack of trust from the US and the international community in his intentions.”

“Kim said he would live without nuclear weapons if he could, and that he wouldn’t want his daughter to live with them either,” he said.

He also described the North Korean leader as “a polite person” and “a leader.”

Moon’s assessment of Kim drew intense criticism from the conservative ruling party.

Na Kyung-won, who won a fifth time as a lawmaker with the People Power Party in the April general election, said in a statement posted on her Facebook that the former president was “acting as a spokesperson for Kim Jong-un.”

She accused Moon of “still having a blind faith in Kim” and “buying into the time-old narrative of the North Korean regime that justifies developing nuclear weapons.”

“Such naivete in a leader is a serious incompetence as well as a grave risk to this country,” she said. “The idea of getting North Korea to give up nuclear weapons by acceding to its needs and wants is mere delusion.”

Ruling party Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo said that based on his memoirs Moon “appears to be oblivious to the failures of his North Korea appeasement policies.”

“Even after the inter-Korean summits, North Korea has been consistently focused on advancing its nuclear capabilities and weakening South Korea and the US’ abilities to deter them,” the lawmaker said in a Facebook statement.

“From his memoirs, we find out why he failed. He did not question Kim when he said he did not intend to use nuclear weapons and took him at his word.”

Another ruling party Rep. Yoon Sang-hyun wrote on his Facebook that Moon “willingly let himself be beguiled by Kim’s lies and ended up aiding his nuclear ambitions.”

“After all, Moon really is to this day Kim Jong-un’s chief spokesman.”

On other world leaders, Moon noted that former US President Donald Trump said the two of them “have ‘great chemistry together.’” He said that Trump told him “several times” that they have “‘the best chemistry.’”

“I know there are negative views of (Trump), but I found him to be a great partner in diplomacy,” he said. “Some find him to be rude and crass, but I appreciated his candor. It’s hard to work with people when you can’t tell what’s on their mind.”

Moon said he found the late former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to be “not budging in his stance.”

“When you see him, he puts on a nice face and speaks softly, but the moment he turns his back, you realize that you have made no progress at all.”