Moon's Olympic diplomacy resembles Kohl's Realpolitik.
This refers to the Feb. 23 contribution in The Korea Times by Michael Bergmann titled "We will not lose peace."
South Korea may be well on the way to win peace. In fact, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's "dialogue" with North Korea resembles West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl's Realpolitik before the unification of Germany.
When Kohl realized that the Soviet grip on the former East Germany was weakening, he assured both America and the Soviet Union that a united Germany would not be a threat to anyone as it had already renounced all territorial claims. He also assured the East Germans that if they decided to join in a united Germany, they would be treated as equals.
The result was electrifying. The Berlin Wall quickly fell and the two Germanys were united without firing a single shot. Chancellor Kohl went down in history as the second unifier of Germany after Bismarck. Since unification, Germany's peaceful rise has been relentless. It is now Europe's No. 1 economy and the centerpiece of the European Union (EU). Kohl's diplomacy peacefully achieved what Hitler's Panzers failed to achieve by force.
President Moon's "dialogue" with North Korea resembles Chancellor Kohl's realpolitik of "normalization" with East Germany. He agreed with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un that two Korean teams would walk as one at the opening ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics and that a joint women's ice hockey team would be fielded. Kim tried to win a public relations contest by sending his telegenic sister, Kim Yo-jong, who invited Moon to visit North Korea.
It is clear that Moon's Olympic diplomacy has pre-empted Kim Jong-un by forcing him to give up his counterproductive nuclear saber rattling. Only few months ago, Kim was threatening the United States and its allies with nuclear annihilation. But he must have realized that such saber rattling was only drawing a U.S. pre-emptive nuclear strike on North Korea. For all the North Korean massive artillery threat to South Korea, Kim's generals must have told him that they might not survive a sudden all-out pre-emptive nuclear strike by the United States, to unleash their counter attack on South Korea.
By opening up dialogue with North Korea, Moon has provided Kim an opportunity to change his stand. Kim has already taken some stumbling steps toward liberalization of the economy. Kim's New Year address hinted at a creeping "marketization" of North Korea's all-powerful state sector. Moon can help accelerate the process by promising North Korea aid and investment.
This might not lead to quick unification, but it will inevitably lead to reduced tension and the threat of war on the Korean Peninsula. Kim cannot return to his earlier saber rattling as he will face a renewed threat of a U.S. pre-emptive strike.
South Korea is in good hands and President Moon may turn out to be Korea's Kohl who will peacefully steer the unification of the two hostile Koreas. As a German, Bergmann seems to understand the situation in Korea when he says: "War has no winners. But freedom will surely not lose the peace. South Korea's president has all the freedom- and peace-loving people of the world on his side when he grabs the opportunity for change."