See More on Facebook

Culture and society, Diplomacy

Moon Jae-in is our Person of the Year

The South Korean President wins our award because of his steadfast commitment to diplomacy and deescalation.


Written by

Updated: December 28, 2018

Moon Jae-in is our Person of the Year. For more on the finalists and runners up, please click this link here. 

In a few decades, when people look back on 2018, perhaps they will only remember one or two major headlines.

In the field of diplomacy, they may remember the meeting between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un.

If this were to happen it would be one of the biggest injustices of selective history and memory.

Because without South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s insistence, persistence and patience, the Trump-Kim summit would never have happened. No Moon – Kim summit, no Trump – Kim summit.

A period of tension

If we think back to the tail end of 2017, the headlines that was taking place in and around the Korean Peninsula highlighted a region that was on edge.

Trump had antagonized Pyongyang with a series of tweets including comparing his rocket size to Kim, calling the chairman a ‘little rocket man’ and threatening nuclear destruction of North Korea.

Pyongyang responded by calling Trump a “dotard” and questioning his mental stability.

The world watched with anxiety as it moved a little closer to a nuclear conflict, the doomsday clock inched towards midnight.

Remember how much panic there was in January in Hawaii when nuclear raid sirens went off accidentally. The world seemed to teeter on the brink.

Rapid de-escalation

The reason that Moon Jae-in is our person of the year is because he single-handedly disarmed the powder keg that had been primed.

Moon reached across the border when it was not popular or politically prudent to do so.

His insistence on inviting and meeting with the North Korean delegation at the Olympic Games slowed down tensions and opened room for negotiations.

His administration, at his insistence, worked tirelessly to assuage any paranoia the North had. It finally culminated in a historic meeting between the leaders of the two Koreas at the demilitarized zone.

When they did meet on the DMZ Moon did not hesitate to accept Kim’s invitation to ‘step over the line’ into North Korean territory knowing full well that there were symbolic repercussions.

The good will between the two leaders seem genuine too with Moon later returning the favour by becoming the first South Korean president to visit Pyongyang since Roh Moo-hyun a decade prior.

Preserving Alliances

That is not to say that Moon has turned his back on the United States. The president has repeatedly maintained that the US has an important part to play in bringing peace to the Korean peninsula, even when it was not necessary for him to do so.

Seoul signed off on the Trump – Kim summit in Singapore and took a back seat to the whole affair knowing that Trump’s vanity meant that he had to take center stage and that the US President would demand full credit for the de-escalation of tensions.

When US media hyperbolized about a possible Nobel peace prize for Trump, there was only encouragement from Seoul.

Person of the year

While it should be mentioned that Moon has a complicated legacy at home, his poll numbers have fallen on the back of several unpopular economic and energy policies. It should not in any way tarnish the legacy that he has built up in 2018.

Moon wins ANN’s person of the year not just because he single-handedly deescalated tensions when they were at an all time high on the peninsula. Moon wins it because he reminds us that patient non-zero-sum diplomacy still has a place in this world. In an age where leaders are increasingly boisterous, vainglorious and quick to act, that is perhaps more important than ever.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Culture and society, Diplomacy

What South Asian sci-fi can tell us about our world

Dismissing sci-fi and fantasy as low-brow or trashy isn’t just a desi stance, although it might be more pronounced. My first encounter with a work of desi science fiction was very much by accident. During my undergraduate studies at the English department at Karachi University, while idly browsing through a professor’s personal collection on her desk, I came across Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain’s Sultana’s Dream, a English-language short story set in a feminist utopian world written by a Bengali Muslim woman in 20th century colonial India. Up until then, my study of literature had been mostly white, mostly male authors, an unsurprising fact when we take into account the (Western) literary canon’s inherent whiteness and maleness, as well as the institutional history of English departments as tools of the colonial project — teaching works


By Dawn
July 16, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

U.S. lawmaker supports Taiwan arms sales

China has protested the sale in strong terms. Representative Michael McCaul, member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said on July 14 that the committee approved a recent U.S. arms sales to Taiwan in response to increased Chinese “aggression.” Speaking to Fox News’ Sunday Morning Futures, the Texas Congressman, who was one of the lawmakers to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen on Friday during her layover in New York, said “Chinese are getting very aggressive in Hong Kong, as you just heard. They are also getting very aggressive in Taiwan.” Green-lighting the arms sale, McCaul said, sends a very strong message to China. “We’re going to arm Taiwan, so she can defend herself from what’s become a very aggressive Chinese Communist Party right on their doorstep,” the Republican told host Maria Bartiromo. The U.S. announced July 8 a US$2.22 billion arms package to Taiwan th


By ANN Members
July 16, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

S. Korean biz groups in emergency mode

Japan has ban the export of high tech materials to South Korea. South Korea’s major business groups are shifting to emergency mode, setting detailed contingency plans for a variety of scenarios amid concerns that the restrictions on exports of key tech materials from Japan to Korea could stay in place for a long time, according to the industry on Monday. The leaders of the country’s five biggest conglomerates — Samsung Electronics, Hyundai Motor Group, SK Group, LG Group and Lotte Group — are tightening their reins on the groups’ operations, bracing for possible ripple effects on the global economy and business environment as a result of Japan’s decision. Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong is spearheading an array of contingency plans. After coming back from a six-day trip to Tokyo last week, Lee convened a meeting with the top brass of the company’s semiconducto


By The Korea Herald
July 16, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

Chinese economy grows at slowest rate in decades

Growth slumps to 27-year low in China, with talk of more aggressive stimulus measures. China’s economy grew 6.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year, its slowest rate in 27 years, as the country’s trade war with the United States exacted its toll. Analysts said they expect economic growth to continue to weaken for the rest of this year, which would likely prompt more aggressive stimulus measures from Beijing. Data released on Monday (July 15) by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed that gross domestic product growth in the second quarter had slowed from 6.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year, coming in largely within expectations. The economy grew by 6.3 per cent for the first half of the year, according to the NBS. The figure is still within the 6 to 6.5 per cent target that Beijing has set for full year GDP growth. Last year, Chin


By The Straits Times
July 16, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

Japan sees decline in value-added trade surplus with Korea

Tokyo’s export curbs to negatively impact global economy due to correlated trade structure. Japan’s trade surplus in value-added goods and services (TiVA) with South Korea took a downturn during the 2005-2015 period, reflecting the diversifying structure of logistics and trade, statistics showed Sunday. In light of the interconnection of the global value chain, the country’s recent curbs on hi-tech exports to Korea are likely to affect not only the two countries but also the regional and global economy in general, Seoul’s government officials noted.\ According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, Japan logged $135.2 billion in aggregated TiVA from 2005 to 2015. Its total trade surplus during the same period stood at $303.2 billion. TiVA, in international trade is equivalent to operating profits of corporate business transactions, figuring out the value added by eac


By The Korea Herald
July 15, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

Beer manufacturers told not to confuse Muslims

Brewers told not to make non-alcoholic beer. Beer manufacturers in the country have been told not to confuse consumers especially Muslims by producing alcohol-free drink. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof (pic) stressed that alcohol-free beer is only confusing Muslims and it is not a wise move. “Using the name alcohol-free beer is confusing as the process of producing the drink including distillation is carried out in the system used to produce alcohol products. “We know the alcohol-free drink is produced by a beer manufacturer but it would cause confusion as some Muslims thought they could consume the drink,” he said. Mujahid, who is also Parit Buntar MP, was commenting on a viral promotion of zero-alcohol beer by a beer manufacturer at a convenient store. In this regard, Mujahid advised Muslims not to consume any pr


By The Star
July 15, 2019