Leaders of the 2 Koreas Emerge as Nobel Peace Prize Contenders

September 28, 2018 Updated: September 29, 2018

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have emerged as strong contenders for a joint Nobel Peace Prize, in their diplomatic efforts to broker peace on the Korean peninsula and denuclearize the North.

Media speculation first appeared in April 2018 when Moon downplayed the prospect of winning the prize following his first historic summit with Kim. At that time he also suggested U.S. President Donald Trump should get the honor instead.

Some online sports betting sites have listed Moon and Kim as joint top contenders for the award, while Trump was also listed as in the running, either by himself or together with other individuals.

The winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize is set to be announced at a news conference on Oct. 5. There are 331 candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize for 2018, according to the Nobel Prize organization, though the shortlist is not revealed beforehand

Moon and Kim have been trying to improve ties in the Korean peninsula, which has had a fraught history. In 1948, a few years after being freed from Japanese colonial rule in 1945, two separate and opposing governments were established — a communist one in the North and a democratic one in the South.

North Korea’s nuclear weapons program has been a source of major security tensions that persisted despite a series of U.N. and U.S. sanctions and it has also demonstrated advances in ballistic missile technology that experts believe threatens the U.S. mainland.

However, North Korea began warming up to the outside world following a 2018 New Year’s Day message from Kim. In early 2018, inter-Korean relations began improving, and in February athletes from the North and South marched under a unified flag at the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

In the months after, Kim Jong Un held various meetings with Moon Jae-in, as well as Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, pledging his commitment to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. North Korea also said it had dismantled its nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri.

At the latest summit between Moon and Kim in Pyongyang in September, North Korea agreed to turn the Korean peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”. North Korea will allow experts from “concerned countries” to watch the closure of its missile engine testing site and launch pad at Tongchang-ri, Moon said at a joint news conference with Kim.

Following the summit, Trump praised Kim for his courage in taking steps to disarm, but said much work still had to be done and sanctions must remain in place on North Korea until it denuclearizes.