The five steps to today’s accord between North and South Korea

The election of Donald Trump is part of the picture. 


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What led to today’s historic meeting between the presidents of North and South Korea? It was the result of a series of events, which have brought the two nations to a point where the accord has become possible. 

Investigation begins into Choi Soon-Sil, close confident of Park Guen-Hye, president of South Korea: 24 October 2016

Choi Soon-Sil, a close friend but, crucially, not an employee of South Korea’s president Park Guen-Hye, is found to have received multiple government announcements and speeches ahead of time.

She is accused – and later convicted – of corruption and selling government influence, your classic “cash for access” scandal essentially. The investigation is widened to include the President herself.

The fallout from the ongoing scandal saps the popularity not only of the president but the ruling centre-right party, who have a significantly more hawkish position on North Korea than the opposition centre-left.

Donald Trump elected as president: 8 November 2016

To the shock and surprise of political leaders around the world, Donald Trump wins a narrow electoral college victory despite losing the popular vote.

In the early months of his presidency, Trump amps up the rhetoric over North Korea, labels Kim Jong-Un “Little Rocket-Man” and threatens to rain down “fire and fury like the world has never seen” on Pyongyang.

All of this places the leadership in both the North and South in a position where, unless they take a more active role in easing tensions on the peninsula, they risk being dragged into war by the Trump administration.

Impeachment of Park Guen-Hye: 9 December 2016

The South Korean legislature votes to impeach President Park over the corruption scandal. The impeachment is upheld by the Supreme Court, resulting in an earlier-than-expected presidential election on 9 May 2017.

Moon Jae-In elected president of South Korea: 9 May 2017

Moon Jae-In is elected on a platform of centre-left economics and an easing of relations between North and South.

Korea hosts 2018 Winter Olympics: 9-25 February 2018

The first major fruits of President Moon’s new approach are the successful Winter Olympics in which the Korean peninsula competes as one team, widely hailed as a diplomatic success for North Korea. That cements the warmer relations between Moon Jae-In and Kim Jong Un, paving the way for today's accord. 

Stephen Bush is political editor of the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.