05:45 GMT +325 July 2017
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    South Korean President Moon Jae-in smiles during Reuters interview in Seoul.

    South Korea May Try Replace Years of Hawkishness With New 'Sunshine Policy'

    © REUTERS/ KIM HONG-JI
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    South Korea has proposed holding military talks with its northern neighbor, the first such talks since 2014. President Moon Jae-in, who was elected in May, is seeking a return to the "sunshine policy" which led to improved relations with North Korea.

    "We request military talks with the North on July 21 at Tongilgak to stop all hostile activities that raise military tension at the military demarcation line," Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk told a media briefing Monday. 

    ​Tongilgak is a North Korean-controlled building in the village of Panmunjom, on the demarcation line which has divided the two Koreas since 1953. 

    Two sets of talks are planned — one between high level military officials for July 21, and another involving Red Cross representatives on both sides of the border on August 1.

    The latter would focus on facilitating reunions between families in North and South Korea during the Chuseok harvest festival holiday in October.

    President Moon Jae-in was elected on a platform of improving relations with the North after years of hawkish suspicion under his predecessor, Park Geun-hye, who left in disgrace after being impeached for a corruption scandal.  

    In June, North Korea's news agency warned Park and her spymaster Lee Byung-ho they faced a "miserable dog's death."

    They are accused by Pyongyang of planning to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

    South Korean ousted leader Park Geun-hye, left, arrives for her trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul Thursday, May 25, 2017
    © AP Photo/ Jung Yeon-je/Pool
    South Korean ousted leader Park Geun-hye, left, arrives for her trial at the Seoul Central District Court in Seoul Thursday, May 25, 2017

    Park, and her conservative predecessor President Lee Myung-bak, both followed a notably hawkish line against the North.

    It was President Kim Dae-jung who launched the original "sunshine policy" in 1998, and his successor, Roh Moo-hyun continued it.

    Kim Dae-jung was awarded the Nobel peace prize after he visited Pyongyang in 2000, and met Kim Jong-un's father, Kim Jong-il.

    The sunshine policy derived its name from the 'North Wind and the Sun' — one of Aesop's fables, in which the sun and the wind each vie to remove a man's coat. The sun succeeds where the wind had failed.

    "The aim of the strategy was the blunting of the Northern threat through rapprochement," writes Daniel Tudor, in his book Korea: The Impossible Country.

    "North and South Korea of course have millennia of shared cultural history, and there was a sense that between fellow Koreans, an atmosphere of mutual trust and cooperation could be created," he added.

    But the policy was undermined by the revelations made in 2003 about the historic North-South summit.

    It emerged Kim Jong-il had only agreed to the summit after being bribed with hundreds of millions of dollars, much of it donated by the giant Hyundai conglomerate.

    The "sunshine policy" was long gone before Kim Jong-il's death in 2011, but relations have worsened as his son has chosen external aggression as a means of papering over cracks in his regime.

    North Korea has conducted 11 missile tests this year, despite international condemnation. Its most recent ballistic missile test may have shown it to have the capability of reaching US territories with a long-range, nuclear armed weapon.

    Pyongyang has also conducted five nuclear tests, in violation of international sanctions. 

    US President Donald Trump has been saber-rattling and hinting at missile strikes against the North if China does not rein in her eccentric ally.

    President Moon's approval ratings reached 80 percent earlier this month, and that was attributed to a tougher line he had taken with the North over the missile tests.

    The intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 is seen during its test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 5 2017
    © REUTERS/ KCNA
    The intercontinental ballistic missile Hwasong-14 is seen during its test in this undated photo released by North Korea's Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) in Pyongyang, July 5 2017

    But he is naturally a dove and would like nothing better than to persuade Kim Jong-un or his generals to meet and talk down the rising tensions on the peninsula.

    While most young South Koreans have long ago given up on the idea of a united Korea, they remain worried about the threat of invasion or missile attack, especially as Greater Seoul — the capital, where half the country's population live — is only 30 miles from the border. 

    Related:

    China Welcomes South Korea's Push for Talks With North Amid Nuclear Crisis
    South Korea Proposes Military Talks with North Korea This Month
    South Korea Receives New Submarine Amid Escalating Tensions With Pyongyang
    Seoul Ready for Dialogue With Pyongyang Depending on N Korea's Denuclearization
    Tags:
    missile tests, Bribes, nuclear missiles, president, corruption, Korean War, Kim Dae-jung, Moon Jae-in, Park Geun-hye, Kim Jong-un, Kim Jong-il, North Korea, Korean Peninsula, Seoul, Pyongyang, South Korea
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