There’s no doubt something is happening on the Korean Peninsula. In a little over a year the region has seen mass protests that brought down a President in the South to missiles flying over Japan from the North to the leaders of both nations walking hand-in-hand and promises of disarmament. Now there is even talk of this historic meeting between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un being the first tentative step towards uniting the people of Korea.
Circling the diplomacy has been the United States. In public there have been tweet storms, angry shouting and even threats of war. There have been failed attempts to motivate the United Nations to harden a line already causing famine and distress to the people of North Korea. Somewhere along the line the CIA held a diplomatic discussion with Kim which has led to talk of a summit with Trump.
Amongst all this activity a group of Republican lawmakers in the US nominated Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize. Each year the Nobel committee takes nominations from various sources and decides who, in its eyes, has contributed the most to world peace. Sometimes the award is given for achievement, sometimes to encourage further action and occasionally as a motivation for a wider movement.
Trump’s nomination is not a scandal nor surprising. The Committee has little control over who is nominated. That a group of US Politicians should nominate their dear leader is unsurprising either. What happens to that nomination is what matters.
There are recent events the committee will be mindful of, not least Aung San Suu Kyi. Once hailed as the poster-child for a Burma free of military dictatorship, she was awarded the prize in 1991 to much fanfare. Over the years her house arrest became a symbol of the oppression happening in the country and when the military regime relinquished (some) control she was seen as the natural leader to bring people together.
It didn’t work out that way. The atrocities that occurred in Rohingya led to widespread calls for condemnation, which didn’t come. Whether constrained by her own role in the government, or because she wasn’t the person we thought or hoped she was, she didn’t step forward. She condoned the genocide and there were loud calls for her to be stripped of her Nobel Peace Prize.
With Trump there is a potential to further damage the award’s credibility. His behaviour towards women, non-whites and his own legal system could carry a residual effect. There are also the threats of violence and war, including threats directed at Kim, that many of his followers claim drove the North to the negotiating table. This is hardly behaviour that encourages global peace.
It is true that men of violence have won the award in the past. Gerry Adams, Yasser Arafat, even Nelson Mandela, were people who used terrorism but ultimately found statesmanship a more effective and powerful tool to win their cause. These people became symbols for what could be achieved if you put down the gun.
Perhaps more important would be the disingenuous snub to Moon. He has campaigned throughout much of his political career for dialogue with The North. When others were calling for air strikes and war, he was working to create the conditions that allowed Kim to enter Seoul for a meeting that has greater symbolism and meaning to the Koreans.
In my view it’s too early to be talking of Nobel Peace Prizes for Korea. There is much work to be done to end the tension and state of war that exists. Even more is required to bring the North in from the cold and restart a state that has failed on a catastrophic scale. Perhaps, in a few years from now when North and South unite, Kim will be able to take the award with Moon as architects of a united Korea and the world will see what can happen when a Marxist dictator peacefully surrenders his power.
I can live in hope.
Image of Moon and Kim planting a tree together courtesy of Korea.net.