“It was clear his party was going to lose in a landslide, and he understood that the conservatives had a very different idea of how to deal with North Korea: pressure, sanctions and Cold War,” Mr. Lankov said. “In order to prevent that, he made a last-ditch effort to prevent a slide back to mutual hostilities. He went to North Korea to basically sign a lot of agreements about future economic development.”
The conservatives did win the subsequent election, and the Sunshine Policy was declared over in 2010. But projects outlined in 2007, then shelved, could be revived by Mr. Moon and Kim Jong-un, including plans to reduce the potential for conflict in the sea west of the Korean Peninsula, where deadly clashes between the two countries have taken place.
One other significant legacy from 2007 is Mr. Moon himself. He was chief presidential secretary to Mr. Roh and led preparations for his meeting in Pyongyang with Kim Jong-il.
While Mr. Moon has been in office for less time than Kim Jong-un or even Mr. Trump, he has deep experience with the sort of issues he will face Friday, said Gordon Flake, a Korea specialist at the University of Western Australia.
“Moon Jae-in, whether you love him or hate him, he’s a South Korean president who is not naïve, who is highly experienced,” he said. “He saw the full arc of inter-Korean relations: naïve, Pollyannaish introduction, to deeply disenchanted antagonism at the end.”