Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk
U.S. President Donald Trump is in such hot water in Washington that his summit with Kim Jong-Un, if it actually happens, will be either a distraction or a welcome relief from the pressure-cooker atmosphere at home.
The only problem is, he may be so busy fending off the investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller that he may have little chance to figure out what to say to Kim. The question is whether he can spare the time for the meeting while ducking the slings and arrows of his enemies in Washington and firing off volleys of his own.
If Trump sees Kim at all, he will be doing so against a background of catcalls and outbursts of insults the likes of which no American president has ever seen or heard. Then again, he may welcome the summit as a chance to get away from it all, to take a break in some foreign capital, leaving the mayhem in the White House for others to sort out.
But where on earth are Trump and Kim likely to meet? The Kimster has not left his native turf since taking over after his father’s death on a wintry December day in 2011. The Trumpster could no doubt suggest some nice place with a Trump hotel and golf course nearby, but all that’s sheer fantasy. At this stage no one knows where the two will meet — though certainly Trump won’t be following in the footsteps of two former presidents, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, who flew to the North Korean capital of Pyongyang to pick up beleaguered Americans long after their glory days in the White House were over.
The travail of Trump bears a certain parallel to that of former South Korean presidents. In fact, we’re hearing about so many scandals in or around or near the Trump White House that we can’t help but go back to the Candlelight Revolution of late 2016 and early 2017 when hundreds of thousands flooded the streets calling for the ouster of Park Geun-Hye while dozens of people in her government were arrested.
Nowhere nearly as many Trumpkins have been arrested and none have been imprisoned. That’s because, under the American system, most people who are charged with crimes are freed on bail until they’re actually convicted and sentenced. No such luck in Korea, where the accused generally languish in jail throughout often lengthy trials.
Most are convicted on the theory that they would not have been charged if they were really blameless. Many, especially owners and executives, do get off with suspended sentences, or eventually are pardoned or have their sentences substantially reduced. But, nonetheless, the system seems harsher in Korea than in the U.S.
The parallels between systems, Korean and American, seem apt despite many enormous differences, but how to compare anything we’ve seen in Seoul with the specter of Trump poised for what may be his most critical moment while the baying dogs of the media, politics and the law are salivating to tear him apart?
Or how about comparing the dilemma of Trump facing Kim with that of the Kimster himself? A lot of people wonder why he hasn’t left his country while he’s been pulling the levers of power; that is, running the government, the ruling party and the army. Obviously, the prospect of departing his native turf is daunting even though as a kid he did go to school in Switzerland, where he acquired an abiding love for basketball.
It would be OK, maybe, to meet Trump in Panmunjeom, where he’s supposed to rendezvous with President Moon Jae-In late next month. But the Americans think Panmunjom would be a bad idea. Something about that axe incident in 1976 when two American army officers got killed has left a bad feeling about the so-called “truce village.” Or maybe it’s the truce itself that bothers people — the armistice that left North and South baring their teeth in frustrated rage with no way to reunify the peninsula.
Like Trump, Kim may have problems at home that no one knows about. Would he dare fly to New York for a summit under the auspices of the North’s U.N. mission, or go to Switzerland not too far from his old school? Might it not be possible that his enemies, he must have some, would seize the moment to try to kick him out at last?
Trump faces a parallel problem, one that we read about every day in the media that hates him. He may not feel that secure either while he’s off seeing Kim somewhere, wherever. For both these characters, now may not be the best time to be flying off to some summit, knowing they’re not all that safe and sound back home.