“Trump trauma”: Second term would increase unpredictability of Korea’s security landscape, says diplomat

Posted on : 2023-12-07 17:03 KST Modified on : 2023-12-07 17:03 KST
Park In-kook, a former South Korean ambassador to the United Nations, shared this sentiment at a forum held near Washington
Former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Claremont, New Hampshire, on Nov. 11. (AP/Yonhap)
Former US President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Claremont, New Hampshire, on Nov. 11. (AP/Yonhap)

When it comes to the possibility of Donald Trump returning to the White House, many Koreans “still suffer from ‘Trump trauma,’” said Park In-kook, president of the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, on Tuesday.

Park, a former South Korean ambassador to the United Nations, made the remarks in his welcoming address at the Trans-Pacific Dialogue organized by the institute on the outskirts of Washington, DC.

Park made note of how, as a presidential candidate in 2016, Trump had said in media interviews that he was open to allowing South Korea and Japan to build their own nuclear arsenals and that he was considering withdrawing US troops from both countries.

“The possibility of a Trump victory [in 2024] increases the unpredictability of the future security landscape on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. The implication is that if Trump, who also demanded a significant increase in South Korea’s share of defense spending during his presidency, is re-elected in next year’s election, South Korea could face increased pressure and anxiety over its national security.

Park In-kook, the president of the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, speaks at the Trans-Pacific Dialogue event in Washington, DC, on Dec. 5. (pool photo)
Park In-kook, the president of the Chey Institute for Advanced Studies, speaks at the Trans-Pacific Dialogue event in Washington, DC, on Dec. 5. (pool photo)

Park went on to say that South Koreans are also anxious about the unresolved North Korean nuclear issue, recalling December 2022 polling results that found that 76 percent of South Koreans were in favor of independent South Korean nuclear armaments. He also said that attempts to denuclearize North Korea through bilateral talks and the six-party talks since the early 1990s have “completely failed,” and called for South Korea, Japan and the US to cooperate in areas such as nuclear submarines to strengthen security.

The institute president pledged to create a research group within his organization in response to SK Group Chairperson Chey Tae-won’s remarks at the event the previous day that the two countries need to form an economic “union” to build a common market.

Meanwhile, Chuck Hagel, who formerly served as US secretary of defense under President Barack Obama, remarked in his speech that the rules-based world order that lasted for 75 years after World War II was “imperfect, made mistakes, and couldn’t solve everything.” At the same time, he said, if we look back at the last 75 years, there was no World War III, and no nuclear weapons were used.

While it’s true that the US pursued its own interests under this order, Hagel argued, efforts must be made to maintain this US-led postwar international order.

By Lee Bon-young, Washington correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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