Media Outlets Ask Wellesley Professor Katharine H. S. Moon to Weigh In On the Summit Meeting in Singapore

June 15, 2018
Kathy Moon

This week, media outlets turned to Katharine H.S. Moon, Edith Stix Wasserman Professor of Asian Studies and professor of political science, for her perspective on the implications of the historic June 12 meeting between President Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un. Moon is an expert on the U.S.-Korea alliance and comparative social movements in East Asia. 

Prior to the meeting, Moon was quoted in Reuters where she outlined Kim's agenda and the process of denuclerization in the region. "[The] masses are not unthinking automatons. For the DPRK, dismantling the political rhetoric, organizational investments, and personal interests associated with the nuclear program will be a necessary component of any denuclearization process. North Koreans will require basic explanations for why after decades of living one way — with nuclear aspirations reigning supreme and readiness for war as a legitimate sacrifice — they now need to put these ambitions aside and make friends with foes." 

In the online publication Bustle, Moon also cautioned against having unrealistic expectations about how much would be accomplished. “I think the thing that’s most dangerous about the upcoming summit is that people might expect things to happen too fast,” said Moon. “This is Mr. Trump’s weakness. He likes to go big, but this...will be pretty painstaking and will require years, not months.”

On the question of brokering an end to the Korean War, Moon told the Los Angeles Times that the two sides should proceed with a gradual, step-by-step approach that ends the war but also results in dismantling of nuclear weapons. “If we ever get that far, we should separate a peace treaty from formal diplomatic relations,” Moon said. “If you end the war, it makes sense that you establish some diplomatic relations, but you could start with a legation, a trade office…. You could make full diplomatic relations dependent on a certain level of denuclearization.”

In an opinion piece for CNN, Moon, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution Center for East Asia Policy, described the summit’s results as “underwhelming.” She wrote that it yielded no specific policy or strategy for peacemaking, denuclearization, or an economic development plan in North Korea. Moon called President Trump’s decision to cease joint military exercises with ally South Korea “appalling.”

Moon was also interviewed on WBUR’s Radio Boston, on WGBH’s Greater Boston, France 24 and CNN among others.