When President Moon started his “appeasement” phase with North Korea, comparisons with Neville Chamberlain were fitting. Now that the Olympics have started, we saw President Moon getting friendly with Kim Yo Jong and the rest of the Olympic delegation. Heck, President Moon agreed to have dinner with them. At that point, the comparison with President Moon and Prime Minister Chamberlain couldn’t get any stark. But, such a comparison must be with caution.
When someone does a Prime Minister Chamberlain analogy, it is only when a leader does a deal with another leader of a dictatorship. The last time people did a Prime Minister Chamberlain analogy was during the Iran Deal. The Iran Deal was a deal between Iran and the six world powers – the US, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany. In this deal, Iran agreed to limit their nuclear energy program in return for having their sanctions lifted. The Iran Deal was heralded as Obama’s major diplomatic achievement. But, some in Washington were miffed, mainly because Obama diplomatically reached to a country that known for being a “tyrant." Those people branded their anger in the form of Neville Chamberlain analogies because just like how Neville Chamberlain appeased to Nazi Germany by giving them parts of Czechoslovakia, Obama appeased to the Islamic Republic of Iran by lifting their sanctions.
In the light of people mentioning Neville Chamberlain so much, Washington Post writer, Ishaan Tharoor, wrote an article titled “In defense of Neville Chamberlain, hindsight’s most battered punching bag.” In his article, Tharoor wrote that Chamberlain was trying to navigate the country in a “fraught context” where the memory of World War I still lingered and haunted many citizens. With World War I fresh in Chamberlain’s mind, he would obviously opt for the diplomatic option, even if the diplomatic option was flimsy at best. After all, experts predicted that the alternative, that is a future war, would be worse. So, Chamberlain couldn't afford to have his country to go through another war again.
President Moon felt the same way, too.
Much like Prime Minister Chamberlain, President Moon was haunted by his own war: The Korean War. Moon was born to refugees who fled from the North. Both the North and the South oversaw heavy casualties from the Korean War. But, the North oversaw the most bombings than the entire Pacific theater in World War II. Since the North suffered massive destruction, Moon’s parents became refugees. But, since the 58th parallel divided the Korean peninsula, Moon’s parents couldn't go back to their hometown. So, the prospect of Korean reunification is personal to President Moon. When talking about what he would do if the Koreas reunified, he once said: “the first thing I would do is to take my mother’s hand and visit her hometown.”
Much like how the idea of Korean reunification is personal to President Moon, so is the idea of a second Korean war. Experts projected that a second Korean War would be “catastrophic.” The Department of Defense projected that about 200,000-300,000 Koreans would die within the first 90 days of the war. But, the casualty rate is merely simplistic compared to the displacement rate. The displacement rate is projected to be millions, with many of them pouring into China. President Moon does not want to be responsible for creating more Korean refugees-much like how Prime Minister Chamberlain does not want to be responsible for creating more British deaths.
President Moon and Prime Minister Chamberlain should not be compared because they dared to “appease” with the “enemy.” Rather, they should be compared because both of them are haunted by the previous war that their respective countries had suffered and will do anything to avoid another war. Prime Minister Chamberlain and President Moon’s methods do seem questionable, but in the light of their countries’ histories, those methods are understandable. However, whether or not President Moon’s fate will be like Prime Minister Chamberlain is yet to be seen.