Last year, the Moon Jae-in administration tried to help experts at U.S. foreign policy think tanks in Washington better understand Seoul’s plan to increase inter-Korean economic cooperation. However, it is said that South Korean diplomats had hard times making appointments with some high-profile U.S. experts due to their apathetic reactions.
Korean Peninsula experts in Washington often take senior position in U.S. administrations. Many others served U.S. administrations before moving to think tanks. They frequently provide policy advice for Department of State officials, including U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, exchanging in-depth information and influencing policy directions.
Korean Peninsula experts have also grown in numbers as well. In the past, their themes were limited to relations with Japan and China or nuclear technology. These days, the experts are busy discussing North Korea issues through social media and comments on mainstream media. A think tank official said many of them compete with each other to make their voices heard.
What difference would it make to wine and dine them and hold events for them who have long observed the North Korea nuclear negotiations and say that the U.S. had been deceived by North Korea several times? South Korean diplomats could come empty-handed if they fail to persuade foreign policy experts in Washington who are armed with long accumulated information about North Korea and its negotiating patterns. This is why some experts show cold reactions, saying South Korean diplomats repeat their government’s positions like parrots.
Times have changed. There is no doubt that public diplomacy should be carried out by professionals with expertise in each sector. However, we are concerned that diplomats who have dealt with North Korean nuclear issues are confined in the boundaries of public diplomacy, simply repeating limited messages as demanded by their headquarters in Seoul.