Graphics: Kristina Völk
-Ryan Fahey, Philomaters editor-
The North Korean rumour mill is churning with whispers that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners could be two of the most controversial politicians to grace the world stage.
According to North Korean diplomats, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are a shoe in for the laureate, which is awarded to those who “have done the best work for fraternity between nations.”
In fairness to the diplomats, they may not be completely off road this time. The meeting between North Korea’s supreme leader and the US President in Singapore in 2018 was a historic occasion, the first ever meeting between the two countries.
They signed a joint statement, which agreed to revised peaceful relations, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, recovery of soldiers’ remains, and follow-up negotiations between high-level officials. Despite the usual scepticism from political commentators, follow-up meetings have been happening and they have held (an unsuccessful) meeting in Vietnam this week.
North Korean newsstands and tourist shops have even rid themselves of the nation defining anti-American propaganda, which once adorned the postcard shelves.
The Singapore summit last year wasn’t considered by all to be such a success with many complaining about the vagueness of the agreement. In one fell swoop, the US President revised his approach to the supreme leader, feeding him an abundance of juicy carrots, getting little in return, and throwing away the stick.
The meeting was the product of months of diplomacy yet all Kim Jong-un promised was “total denuclearization,” with little information on how this would be done. US officials expected a roadmap for definite dates, at least. These were not agreed on and he was still awarded with an actual cessation of joint military between the US and South Korea. This was something Kim had been after for years.
Perhaps, this is why Trump should get the prize. Although, his concessions were probably largely down to him being the worst example of a leader of a state this century, his incompetence has de-escalated tensions which fostered fear across the world for decades.
My dad once told me of a commercial called Duck and Cover that used to play during the Cold War years. The gist of the commercial was that if Russia, or North Korea, let off a nuke, there was little chance of survival. You were advised to stay indoors, stock up on tinned food and board up your windows in the slim chance that the radiation just didn’t fancy seeping through your door. This fear has been part of our collective psyche ever since. North Korea was often seen as the “could be” creator of this nuclear holocaust. Now Kim’s getting noticed and praised by the US, we can relax a little and know it’s unlikely that he’ll press the red button.
The thing the diplomats seem to have missed is that while the US and DPRK have made huge strides in nurturing relations between themselves, their attitudes to other sensitive geopolitical situations will leave their names relegated from the nomination list.
While Trump is fostering discord at home, in the Middle East and in the Twittersphere, Kim is failing to turn round the dismal record of Human Rights abuses back in North Korea. UN special rapporteur for human rights in North Korea, Tomas Quintana told reporters in Seoul that, “with all the positive developments the world has witnessed in the last year, it is all the more regrettable that the reality for human rights on the ground remains unchanged, and continues to be extremely serious.”
Trump and Kim’s second meeting in Hanoi should be encouraged, yet empty promises without long term commitments are unlikely to turn back the weight of these leader’s damage to international geopolitics. And it seems highly unlikely that anything will.