Joe Biden’s camp is preannouncing an overhaul of President Donald Trump’s diplomacy and security policy. Official and unofficial channels for diplomacy and security between South Korea and the U.S. are rarely seen in this time of turbulence. Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha and the first and second deputy ministers said they haven’t met with the Biden camp’s diplomacy personnel at the government office audit last month. The first and second deputy directors of the National Security Office were the same. This speaks volumes for the reality of Seoul’s diplomacy that has failed to even create communication channels with Washington.
Perhaps, this comes from the structure of the diplomacy and security team of the Moon Jae-in administration. Since President Moon took office, those who led denuclearization talks during Barack Obama was in office were excluded from the team because they had different views from the incumbent administration. Experts of inter-Korean relations and trade filled up the void. Former National Security Office Director Jeong Eui-yong who resigned four months ago, was a trade expert, and his successor Seo Hoon has no in-depth experience in South Korea-U.S. relations. First Deputy Minister of Diplomacy Choi Jong-geon who oversees bilateral relations with major countries such as the U.S. and China has been in academia for his entire career. It is concerning how the team would sail the rough water with the complacent approach revolving around the current inter-Korean relations rather than adopting strategies based on the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
The transition from Trump to Biden is not just a change of government, but a radical shift of international orders. South Korea would have to overhaul the current “secret room” diplomacy team that only focuses on the inter-Korean relations and restore the diplomacy line for the U.S. and North Korean nuclear power. Renewing the South Korea-U.S. relationship would be difficult without a drastic reshuffle of staff members.