The best part of former United States National Security Advisor John Bolton’s memoir, “The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” is when he describes President Donald Trump’s behavior as evidence that Trump is unqualified. The book describes Trump’s shocking acts of vanity, capriciousness, and, most importantly, his willingness to use issues of national security and diplomacy for his own political gain. However, upon examination of the copy of the memoir obtained by the Kukmin Ilbo, it seems as though one of former presidential adviser Bolton’s major motives for writing it was to display the unrealistic nature of the North Korean policy developed by President Moon Jae-in and his aides.
Throughout the memoir, Bolton displays a negative attitude toward President Moon. An example is his explanation of Moon’s insistence on attending the U.S.-North Korea summit at Panmunjom on June 30 last year, despite the refusals of both the United States and North Korean Chairman of the State Affairs Commission Kim Jong Un. He also explained that after listening to a phone call between Trump and the president the day after the North-South Korea summit on April 27, 2018, Bolton told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that the call had been a “near death experience,” to which Pompeo, who had also been listening, replied that he was “having cardiac arrest in Saudi Arabia.”
This apparently expresses Bolton’s shock at Moon’s excessive optimism and Trump’s desire to use that to help his reelection. Bolton’s negativity is also shown in a passage of the book in which he writes that Moon said Chairman Kim had never even used the “North-South Head of State Hotline” telephone when North Korea revealed he would be discontinuing it on June 9.
However, these examples can be seen as reflecting Bolton’s personal beliefs, the kind that someone who can be described as a hardliner among hardliners holds. Yet the part that hurts Moon the most, however untrue it may be, are the allegations that Moon and Cheong Wa Dae’s national security office director consistently overestimated North Korea’s willingness for denuclearization and clung to the idea of a U.S.-North Korea summit. Although President Moon told Trump that “North Korea’s willingness to denuclearize is firm” and that “denuclearization will be complete in one year,” Secretary Kim made clear in the Hanoi U.S.-North Korea summit that he would not concede anything more than the closing of the nuclear facility at Nyongbyon. This mystery will continue burden Moon.