North and South Korea
By Grace Moon
The North’s leadership most likely prefers President Donald Trump to Joe Biden in the upcoming election, according to experts, despite stalled nuclear talks that Washington hoped would lead the country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, to give up his nuclear arsenal.
Biden has labelled the secretive and reclusive Kim a “tyrant” and is expected to take a more traditional and cautious line than Trump when it comes to nuclear negotiations.
“Biden’s emphasis on human rights in North Korea is the equivalent of shooting an arrow straight toward Kim,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul. “Most North Koreans don’t have great expectations for Biden. But they’ll be monitoring his next moves.”
North Korea, a dictatorship that has pursued a nuclear weapons arsenal, has been severely affected by U.S. sanctions and in the past requested help from international organizations to alleviate food shortages.
North Korea stands at the heart of the U.S. relationship with South Korea, a modern, thriving democracy.
Nearly 70 years after the Korean War ended in an armistice, the U.S. military continues to have a large presence in South Korea. Trump has demanded that Seoul pay more for the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed there.
When it comes to the job performance of the current U.S. leadership, South Koreans seem to be almost evenly split, with 41 percent approving and 47 percent disapproving, according to a July Gallup poll.
However, when Trump became the first U.S. president to set foot in North Korea in 2019, there was an overwhelmingly positive reaction in the South.
A Pew survey in January showed that 78 percent of respondents approved of U.S. talks with the North. However, a Pew poll released in September showed that only 17 percent believe Trump would do the right thing regarding world affairs.
According to Chul Lee, who left his hometown, Pyongyang — the North’s capital — in 2014 for South Korea, North Korean defectors appreciated Trump’s willingness to work with Kim, but feel frustrated by the abrupt and inconclusive ending to the Hanoi summit in 2019.
“Whereas the Bush administration cited North Korea in the ‘axis of evil,’ Trump was quite unconventional,” said Lee, a senior research fellow at the government-funded Institute for National Security Strategy. “But sheer unpreparedness led to the shattering ofthe Hanoi summit and since then, many North Koreans have become skeptical.”