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On Ivanka’s wavelength

Feb 23,2018
U.S. President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka embarks on a four-day, three-night trip to South Korea from today. Her visit offers a good opportunity for the Moon Jae-in administration to solidify the alliance amid many pending issues including trade disputes and the sharing of defense expenditures.

Trump’s treatment in South Korea carries great significance as it could affect our relations with the United States as well as North Korea. Pyongyang plans to send a high-level delegation again. This time, the delegation will be led by Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party. The Moon administration welcomed his visit, but it should think again because his name is on the UN sanctions list. It is better for Pyongygang to replace him with Choe Ryong-hae, another vice chairman of the Central Committee.

Our government must treat Trump very courteously. It might refer to Japan’s treatment of her when she visited Tokyo last November. At the time, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe himself treated her to a meal at a top-caliber ryokan with French cuisine and donated $50 million to the “Ivanka Fund” aimed at helping women-owned small and medium enterprises in the developing world.

Seoul must also get on her wavelength. Even if she does not carry messages from her father, her remarks can give a clue to grasping what the Trump administration really thinks. If our government helps her understand South Korea’s situation on the peninsula, it could help improve Seoul-Washington ties.

Our government’s plan to help U.S. Vice President Mike Pence meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong on the sidelines of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics failed. The unease stemming from that will not easily subside between Seoul and Washington. The Trump administration criticizes South Korea for not consulting with it on peninsular issues. If Seoul pushes North Korea policies on its own, it could cause Washington to take the same path. Our government must dispel Washington’s fear that Seoul wants to ease sanctions on North Korea while Trump is here.

International sanctions are beginning to work. Circulation of the North’s mouthpiece the Rodong Sinmun was reportedly cut to a third because of a shortage of paper. Our government must take advantage of Trump’s trip to improve its relations with the United States. That is a shortcut to a meeting between Washington and Pyongyang, which the Moon administration wants to have take place.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 23, Page 30