The recent images of Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in shaking hands made something in my chest calve and fall away, for I couldn’t help but think of my father. I suspect he would have broken down and cried, seeing the North and South Korean leaders embracing and welcoming each other to step over the border and amble on their respective sovereign lands. Even I, who have spent most all of my life as an American, found that the sight of the two men treating each other with the warmth of old friends, if not brothers, inspired a deep welling of hopefulness. Who would not want a lasting and possibly reunifying peace? Yet a colder part of me remains skeptical, when looking past the enactments of the highly staged ceremonies. Kim has reportedly stated his willingness to abandon nuclear weapons. But, when he and Moon get down to the hard calculus of nuclear disarmament and troop reductions or removals, will they be strolling arm-in-arm then? Will a comprehensive agreement neatly paper over the countless shocking human-rights abuses of Kim’s regime? Can a dictatorship and a democracy actually coexist?
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