Kim Jong Un assembled a reported 100,000 people, many waving his North Korean flag or the blue-and-white unification standard, to greet Moon Jae-in, the president of South Korea, as he arrived in Pyongyang on September 18.
President Moon did not seem to mind that no one was holding the symbol of his country, the Republic of Korea. “What was glaringly missing was the South Korean flag,” Taro O of the Pacific Forum told Gatestone in e-mailed comments. “Maybe South Korean people take comfort in seeing that Samsung’s Lee Jae-yong wore the South Korean flag badge on the lapel of his jacket while in North Korea. No one in the Moon administration did.”
Nor did Moon himself. In fact, throughout the trip Moon went out of his way to downplay the legitimacy of the government he leads and the country he was elected to represent. As Ms. O observed, Moon on the trip often used “nam cheuk,” literally “south side” or “south,” when the custom has been for South Korean leaders to say “Hanguk,” literally “country of Han people.” Similarly, Moon while in the North said “nam cheuk gookmin.” That translates as “south side citizens.” South Korean presidents would normally use “uri gookmin,” literally “our citizens” and figuratively “my citizens.”
In contrast, Kim Jong Un did not reciprocate Moon’s rhetorical gestures. During Moon’s visit, he used the communist term “uri inmin,” “our people” or “my people.”
Kim’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea does not recognize Moon’s Republic of Korea as sovereign. Similarly, South Korea does not recognize the North. Moon’s choice of terms signaled — subtly but significantly — he was not asserting South Korea’s right to exist.