North Korean leader Kim Jong-un crossed the military demarcation line dividing the two Koreas and shook hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, becoming the first DPRK leader to set foot in South Korea since the end of the 1953 Korean War and marking the beginning of talks in the truce village of Panmunjom. Moon also stepped over the border to the North Korean side following encouragement by Kim
“A new history begins now,” Kim wrote in the guestbook at the Peace House in Panmunjom. “I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation,” Kim was quoted as saying during talks with Moon.
Kim and Moon have agreed to formally end the 1950-53 Korean war in a document that declares “that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new era of peace has begun.” The document aims to end the war this year in a phased manner and is essentially a non-aggression pact, not a formal treaty. They also pledged to work toward a “common goal” of denuclearising the Korean Peninsula.
“KOREAN WAR TO END!” US President Trump said in a message on Twitter, welcoming the developments at the inter-Korean summit. China and Japan also welcomed the talks.
The first thing to say about these moves is: don't get too excited.
North Korea has a history of mercurial actions, to say the least, and smiles can be disarming. There are plenty of times the DPRK agreed to something and then reneged on that deal. The North's foreign policy looks like it was copied from a shampoo bottle: provoke, accept concessions, repeat. Then again, the US has been just as dishonest over the years, often being the first to violate terms. Suffice to say, there's not a lot of trust between the two.
The second thing to say is: don't not be excited (excuse the double negative).
If you lick your finger and put it to the sky, the general flow of policy wind over the past six to nine months suggests Kim does see an opportunity for a "new history" the DPRK hasn't felt before. No one can read other people's minds (although the CIA has some pretty good bugging devices) but Kim clearly isn't acting like a Kim anymore, if you see what I mean.
Let's leave South Korea to the side. One of the major reasons the US didn't go to war with the North last year was because Seoul strongly advised against it and denied the use of its airspace to US warplanes. But South Korea hasn't ever really been a major player on the peninsula, at least not where it matters. It can play a cooperative or a spoiling role, but it can't play a decisive role.
This meeting appears to be a prelude to the proposed Kim/Trump summit set for May or June. When those two sit down, we can expect them both to stamp their feet, posture, and perhaps even walk away a few times. That's just how negotiations work, so don't read too much into this. the truth is, the two sides do have common ground to work with. Kim wants to be left alone and Trump wants to find a way to leave Kim alone. I think that's achievable.
The North Korean regime is not stupid. It knows there are two major factions in the US: Americans (progressives) and Amerikans (non-progressives). Yes, that's an allusion to the South African reality before the State Department turned that country into a sinkhole.
To Pyongyang's elite, Washington has been governed with an iron grip by the progressive regime for decades, which sings with one voice on foreign and domestic policy on every issue. The American progressives, also known as "Yankees," see the world divided between two kinds of countries: American-style democracies and countries that will eventually be American-style democracies.
A good way to find Yankee power in the US is to find the most responsible people. No one in the US is scheming for power. A lot of them seem to be working for change. No one in the US is brainwashing people. A lot of them seem to be educating the public. No one in the US is ruling the world. A lot of them seem to be making global policies. In Western media, this does indeed look like responsibility and good governance. But how many times do I have to say that responsibility is a synonym of power? The Kim regime isn't stupid, it can see what's going on.
Yankee Americans don't really believe all cultures are equal. They believe their culture is superior, and they have a system of thought ("multiculturalism") that contradicts all other systems of thought on the planet, past and present. The progressive culture, which as I've described is the most powerful heir to the American and Western European mainline Protestant tradition, is the leading contender for control of Christianity and just like all good Christians, it has a global mandate for proselytisation. It's bible-bashing without the bibles, a neat trick.
Progressivism is actually mainline Protestantism, which is actually Christianity. Whether or not it obeys any specific tenet of Christian or Protestant doctrine, such as the accuracy of the Holy Trinity, the existence of God, the divinity of Jesus, the predestination of the elect, etc, is irrelevant. The Kims correctly see a continuous cultural tradition whose superficial features constantly mutate.
(Of course, if you are a Christian, you don't believe these features are superficial. But doesn't that make a nice trap? Neither progressives nor Trinitarians can call a spade a spade. The progressives need to hide the fact that they are spades, and the Trinitarians since they believe that only Trinitarian spades are true spades, refuse to give their Christian enemies the prized status of being part of the garage full of spades.)
The Kims don't trust Yankee Americans, why would they? Yankees say they respect your culture and ways, but somehow, no matter where the State Department sends its kind and loving diplomats, that country ends up carving a huge hole in the centre of its society, filling it with American-style default assumptions, and leaving only a shell of a long and formerly complex culture. If talk and money don't achieve this result, parking an aircraft carrier off the coast is sure to do the job. One way or the other, this world will become "multicultural."
But something strange has happened. A year and a half ago, a very rare beast strode into the White House. Mr Trump occupies that strange overlap zone of knowing how to talk the language of both America and Amerika without actually solidifying into either. He's not educated enough to be a full-fledged progressive (and he wouldn't pass the religious tests for office known as "political correctness") and not so outside the orbit of fashionable people to be part of Amerika. To that extent, Mr Trump has a certain flow I believe the Kim regime in North Korea has noticed.
You see, what religious people often don't understand is that persuasion is the only currency in this world. I call it the "capturing of psychologies" because a "no" is just one step closer to a "yes."
I am a firm believer that you can convince someone of anything so long as you get the words in the right order. And those who understand women know that it's never her fault - whatever "it" is. Either the man convinces the girl to sleep with him, or he goes away and works harder until he becomes the kind of man she wants to sleep with. It's always your fault. The cool thing about agency is that it's not zero-sum. Everybody can have 100% agency. Where's yours?
Some religious people understand this. They're the super-preachers, the Big Names. You know them. They set up all the conditions of persuasion to convince their target, but they still believe the final step is taken by God. That's why religious people will never be as fast or as strong as someone who knows persuasion is an entirely human affair from word one. Religious people know they can convince you, but they always assume they are immune to being convinced, and that they, personally, were never persuaded. That's why they turn to violence so often.
The Korean peninsula is not a military problem. It's not even a diplomatic problem. The only thing that matters is the capture of psychologies. I think the Kim regime has wanted to discuss a possible agreement for a long time. But whenever it sits down with Yankee American zealots and civil service Mandarins, it always feels like the price is more than just nuclear weapons, ICBMs and artillery fields along the DMZ.
What's stopped the Kim regime in the past is it senses that any agreement requires converting to the church of progressive multiculturalism, and giving up the very identity of what it means to be a Joseon Korean. They are being asked to become part of that same grey, bland, globalised pseudo-culture they see in South Korea and in every major capital around the world. Is it any wonder why they walk away and double-down on their weapons programme? They want to be left alone.
And yet the pressure to convert is overwhelming. Sanctions, money freezes, infrastructure denial, propaganda, isolation. I'm surprised the regime has lasted this long. But the writing is on the wall, to quote the book progressives pretend to hate so much. Kim knows either he comes quietly or comes in flames. I think he'd rather that his inevitable capitulation - which a reunified Korea in any form would certainly be - was conducted on his terms. The best he can hope for is to become a neutral state, the Switzerland of East Asia. Perhaps this will come up at the summit?
Who better to present his metaphorical sword to than the one US president who knows that everything is achieved through persuasion? A president who knows all the correct progressive religious language, but taps into the matrix underneath the American reality to change and bend that reality to his will. A president who can speak to Kim as a partner with which to cooperate, and not a lost soul to be saved. Who better indeed than Donald Trump? Both would even be congratulated with a Nobel Peace prize, surely.
Mr Trump has been told over and over the North Korean stalemate is impossible to fix. Yet here he stands about to do the impossible, proving once again that religion poisons everything, especially rational thought. If the progressives were operating in the real world, they would know nothing is impossible when all psychologies need is a little push. Mr Trump might have a way to make North Korea feel part of both the progressive global church and like it's being left alone. I think Kim is willing to take that chance. We'll see shortly.
I don't know what will happen in the summit. But the overture this weekend looks like an isolated and proud, but almost extinguished, Korean traditional culture trying desperately to meet his history's end with as much dignity as possible. Kim represents a hundred long years of infection by Western totalitarian democratic ideas owning his country - from Russian-style communism to American Yankee progressive communism. Kim wants to be left alone to be Korean, but I think he's also perfectly aware that "Korea" hasn't existed for more than half a century.
The Kim regime has been horribly repressive against its own people. No one is condoning those deaths. And in many ways, joining the "international community" of progressive and American-style democracies is bound to boost North Korea into the information age like a Hwasong-15. Korean who scrape for food today will soon never have to scrape again and their bellies will swell. I'm sure they will be welcomed by the world.
But if I said "progress" is the dilution of every traditional culture on the planet down to a single grey international multiculturalism, I'd be lying.