South Korea disillusioned after Trump-Kim summit

In the wake of the US-North Korea summit, South Korean democrats are meeting to discuss the future of defense whereas conservatives are calling the outcome a one-sided victory for Pyongyang. Fabian Kretschmer reports.

One day after the historic summit between North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, there are a mix of reactions in South Korea.

The initial results of local elections taking place on Wednesday with the inner-Korean rapprochement in the background showed positive outcomes for the governing Minjoo party.

Read more:Regional concerns fail to tarnish Trump-Kim 'meeting of the century' 

14 out of 17 mayoral posts and 10 of 12 parliamentary seats up for election went to Minjoo candidates. The results could considered be a vote of confidence for President Moon Jae-in's North Korea policy.

Among South Korean conservatives, however, there is a growing feeling of disillusionment after Trump and Kim signed a letter of intent. For them, the potential denuclearization of North Korea now seems farther off than ever before.

Nam Sung-wook from Korea University was quoted in the largest South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo as saying the "complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament is no longer a question."

Read more: Donald Trump-Kim Jong Un summit: More style than substance?


First meeting

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump shake hands as they meet for the first time. Unlike in past meetings with some world leaders, Trump did not try to pull Kim's hand towards him or hold on to the North Korean leader's hand too long.


From insults to 'special bond'

Trump and Kim appeared at ease with one another during the summit. Just a few months prior, Trump and Kim engaged in a war of words, trading insults like "little rocket man" and "mentally deranged." Following their meeting, Trump said he formed a "special bond" with Kim and that he'd like to invite him to the White House.


Who's leading whom?

Kim lays a hand on Trump's back as they leave after signing a joint statement pledging peace negotiations and denuclearization. Some critics worried that the US agreed to give up too many things in negotiations with Kim. At a press conference, Trump said he wanted to stop US military exercises with South Korea and eventually withdraw US troops — something Pyongyang has been demanding for years.


Four-point agreement

Trump displays the joint agreement he signed with Kim. In the four-point document, Kim agreed to the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula." In exchange, Trump agreed to provide "security guarantees" to Pyongyang. The two leaders also agreed to build a "robust peace regime" and to return the remains of prisoners of the 1950-1953 Korean War.


All eyes on Trump and Kim

South Koreans watch the summit on a screen located at a train station in Seoul. Ahead of the event, critics expressed concern that the meeting between the two leaders would be purely symbolic and not bring concrete progress to easing tensions. Indeed, the agreement did not specify what exact measures would be taken.


Honoring 'the bromance' in Singapore

A bartender in Singapore crafted a special drink for the summit, dubbed "The Bromance." The meeting was held on Singapore's Sentosa island, a resort area with luxury hotels and a theme park. The island's security was massively increased ahead of the summit, while local businesses marked the occasion with special Trump-Kim branded water and drinks.

"Scam of the century"

A major point of contention is Trump's statement suspending US-South Korean military maneuvers, citing them as "expensive and provocative war games." There are concerns that the longstanding military alliance between the US and South Korea could be weakened.

Professor Park Won-gon from Handong Global University told DW that the letter of intent was "the biggest scam of the century that fulfilled 99 percent of North Korea's wishes."

In the US, major media outlets also reacted with concern after the summit. The New York Times wrote "North Korea is a nuclear power, get used to it."

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Joseph Yun, a foremost Korea expert in Washington said "North Korea wanted exactly this, and I cannot believe that our side allowed this to happen. I am totally surprised that months of negotiations have led to so few results."

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Surprise suspension of military exercises

President Trump's plan to suspend military exercises was reportedly not agreed upon in advance with the South Korean government in Seoul. According to a South Korean government speaker, they were not entirely sure exactly what Trump meant by "war games."

President Moon has called for a national security meeting to take place on Thursday in order to discuss the results of and potential ramifications of the summit.

Read more: Opinion: Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un's summit of friendliness

In the past, South Korea's government has expressed willingness to reduce the biannual military exercises. Nevertheless, the US and South Korea both consider the exercises to be an integral part of their decades-long alliance. The US current has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.

The military exercises do regularly stir controversy with North Korea, which considers them to be a provocative act of war. Seoul and Washington say they are purely defensive.

For South Koreans, the potential to end the Korean War and achieve peace with the North is something many people are paying attention to.

"I think agreeing on denuclearization is good, but I had expected that Trump and Kim would announce the end of the Korean War," a middle-aged South Korean on a city street in Seoul told DW. "Of course I know that everything can't happen at once."

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