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

Diplomatic thaw prompted active inter-Korean exchanges in 2018

The number of South Koreans visiting the North and vice versa increased sharply to 7,498 in 2018 from 115 in 2017. South Korea greatly expanded exchanges and cooperation with North Korea last year, buoyed by a diplomatic thaw following three inter-Korean summits, according to a new white paper published by the Ministry of Unification on Thursday. The surge in visits was attributed to government initiatives to cooperate with the North on an inter-Korean railway connection project, a forestry project and various sports events. Social and cultural exchanges driven by civic groups and local governments also played a role, according to the 2019 White Paper on


By The Korea Herald
March 22, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

Italy to play a key role as Belt and Road opens new doors across globe

Italy will be a major part of China’s Belt and Road initiative. East-West relations have entered a new phase. Global integration, with sustained increases in crossborder exchanges of goods, technology, knowledge and resources, has reshaped international relations, spurring economic development of traditionally marginal regions and encouraging economic convergence among poorer and richer areas. The phenomenon has received great impetus from the possibilities offered by technological progress and the increase in physical and digital connectivity, strongly enhanced by the modernization and innovation efforts of Asian countries. What we have seen and are still seeing, indeed, is not a simple shift of production from the West to the East, but a real change in production models. The production and consumption of goods and services have followed value chains that are no longer confined to a local scale, but are


By China Daily
March 22, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

No sign of concrete policies for conflict in Thailand’s restive south

Parties offer few if any answers for a 15-year-old deadly insurgency that successive govts have failed to quell. Peace and conflict have never been significant parts of any political party platform in Thailand. This is because a sustainable solution calls for long-term commitment to a policy that could prove to be politically costly. Lasting peace requires self-reflection on the part of both the state and society. Policymakers have to rethink the policy of assimilation that has so far been rejected by the Malay Muslim populace of the southern border provinces because it comes at the expense of their cultural and religious identity. Full-fledged armed insurgency erupted in the far South in the 1960s, some 50 years after the signing of the Anglo-Siam Treaty that defined our current political borders. There was a brief calm in the 1990s, but the absence of violence did not mean peace. A new generat


By The Nation (Thailand)
March 22, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

How competing masculinities inform Pak-India escalation

Devaluing the other in gender hierarchies often takes place through feminisation. Last month, tensions reigned high between neighbouring nuclear powers that share an ugly history of separation and bellicosity. Once more, India and Pakistan seemed to be at the brink of war. Airports were shut down, the Line of Control was violated, and de-escalation — especially in the newfound absence of dedicated third-party intervention — looked out of bounds for the most part. War-mongering through media outlets prevailed while fake and selective news circulated in this situation of crisis. Yet, it is baffling — if also not amusing — that even in such delicate moments, rhetoric of ‘putting them in their place’ was omnipresent on both sides. Similarly, a few months ago, when Prime Minister Imran Khan tweeted his disappointment regarding peace talks with India, he chastised that he ha


By Dawn
March 21, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

Police accelerate probe into Burning Sun scandal

The scandal has involved police officers, nightclub owners and K-Pop stars. Police on Tuesday accelerated a probe into nightclub Burning Sun, which has been marred by allegations of sexual assault, the illicit filming of sex videos, drug use and corrupt ties with police, as ministers vowed a thorough investigation and due punishment. The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office asked a Seoul court to issue an arrest warrant for Jung Joon-young, a singer-songwriter suspected of secretly filming sex videos and sharing them in mobile messenger group chats, including Seungri of Big Bang and FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon. It also filed arrest warrants for a Burning Sun employee surnamed Kim and an executive director at the club surnamed Jang. Kim is accused of illicit filming. Jang is accused of inflicting bodily harm for allegedly assaulting Kim Sang-kyo, a customer who opened the floodgates of allegations


By The Korea Herald
March 21, 2019

Culture and society, Diplomacy

Japanese Olympic Committee was step behind when dealing with Takeda charges

The head of Japan’s Olympic Committee said he would step down, as French authorities probe his involvement in payments made before Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Games. Japanese Olympic Committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda’s decision to step down at the end of his current term comes after the JOC was sluggish in its attempts to deal with his alleged misconduct, according to observers. The driving force behind Takeda’s move was a gradual change in the International Olympic Committee’s stance toward his case, due to concerns that the issue could tarnish the image of the Olympic Games. On Tuesday, Takeda, 71, said he plans to resign when his term as JOC president ends in June. The JOC will now have to reorganize itself in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, an unusual move one year prior to an Olympic Games. Takeda also said he


By The Japan News
March 21, 2019