As he comes to the end of his term of office, President of the Republic of Korea Roh Moo-hyun joins CNN’s Seoul correspondent Sohn Jie-Ae this weekend in a half-hour ‘Talk Asia’ interview. He discusses some of the major incidents of his Presidency including relations with leaders Kim Jong-Il and President George W Bush, reflections on this year’s hostage crisis in Afghanistan and North Korea’s nuclear threat:
“I have believed for a long time that North Korea was willing to give up nuclear weapons and that belief has not changed. I think Kim Jong-Il and I reached a consensus on the need for the Korean peninsula to be denuclearized.I felt Kim Jong-Il knows when to be assertive and when to back down. He is very flexible. Not a difficult person to negotiate with.”
The 61 year old former human rights lawyer tells Sohn what he got out of his meetings with Kim Jong-Il and how he found him to be frank and straightforward, stressing his personal belief that North Korea is on the path to getting rid of nuclear weapons. He also recalls initial differences of opinion with the US President on the North Korea issue, before they worked to successfully resolve them and help make tangible progress towards a safer peninsula:
“From the beginning of my administration, President Bush and I had differences of opinion on the North Korean nuclear issue. Mr. Bush and his aides wanted to keep all options on the table, and they talked openly about it. But we had to be clear that some options were absolutely unacceptable.”
The South Korean President reflects on his devastation at the largest kidnapping of foreigners by the Taliban since the movement’s radical Islamic government was overthrown in 2001. The abduction of the 23 South Korean church volunteers weighed heavily on him and he reveals how he dealt with the crisis both personally and professionally:
“The most difficult thing was how could a country deal with such an illegal and irrational entity that does such inhumane acts? It was morally unethical.”
“But in the end, what we had to consider was not logic, but the value of a person’s life.”
As to what the future holds, this week’s Talk Asia suggests that President Roh will still play a role in South Korean matters once his term comes to an end.