When historic moments are unfolding at a fast pace, it is easy to get caught up in the lofty rhetoric and grand gestures.
When it seems like the recent events on the Korean peninsula could light a path to potential peace and denuclearisation, we can easily forget the constant in politics: domestic political calculus .
However, it is at times like these, that we cannot forget how more humdrum domestic politics can influence wider regional events.
The political heads in Japan certainly are keeping them in the forefront of their minds.
Despite what Japanese officials see as being good news (that North Korea leader Kim Jong Un wishes to hold a bilateral summit with Japan), the Japan Times reports that the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe remains cautious, saying there are many obstacles and considerations that cannot be overshadowed by the significance of the meetings:
“We can’t verify at this point just how accurate Mr. Moon was about Mr. Kim’s remark [showing interest to meet with Japanese administration]. There is a possibility that Mr. Moon wants to boost his support rate at home for being a mediator between Japan and North Korea,” another senior official at the Prime Minister’s Office said. “It’s not wise to be overly optimistic.”
It is natural for Japan to be among the most skeptical; they are the only country in the world to have suffered a nuclear bomb attack and lived with its legacy.
Moon Jae-in is a member of the left-wing Democratic Party . Next month, on June 13, local elections will be held in South Korea. Approval rating data prior to the summit already showed a surge in support for Moon and his approach to North Korea.
His approval rating reached 67.8% in the third week of April, up from 66.8% a week ago, according to a survey by Realmeter, a pollster.
This positive appraisal may trickle down to Democratic Party candidates running in local elections and give them a boost against their main rival, the conservative Liberty Korea Party.
With these local elections on the horizon, Moon was facing negative economic trends: South Korean unemployment in March jumped to the highest level since 2010, and
many are blaming Moon’s aggressive increase in the minimum wage, putting his economic agenda at risk less than a year after he took office.
Additionally, Moon was facing harsh domestic criticism over his nomination of an unpopular former lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party to the head of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).
Corruption allegations are the cause of this concern: Kim Ki-shik, newly appointed FSS head, was criticized by the opposition bloc for his overseas business trip paid for by agencies subject to parliamentary inspection while he was the lawmaker in charge of inspecting the agencies.
Any talk of future peace must be carefully analysed and true motives must always be understood in order to really follow these historic events unfolding at breakneck speed.