Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Korean Unification and Global Peace

SEOUL – While the United Nations celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2015, Koreans will lament 70 years of national division. Considering all of the challenges and opportunities that the divided peninsula faces – and will continue to confront in the coming years – unification remains an important goal that we must continue to pursue.

Founded formally in 1948 under UN auspices, the then-fledgling Republic of Korea immediately became engulfed in Cold War power politics, which hampered its efforts to join the UN – a goal not achieved until 1991. Since then, however, the Republic has more than made up for its late arrival. It is playing an active role in the UN – the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, and the Human Rights Council – and it is participating in numerous initiatives related to peacekeeping, development cooperation, climate change, non-proliferation, and human rights.

During this time, the international community has also dramatically changed. Globalization and technological transformation have deepened interdependence, and yet insecurity, inequality, injustice, and intolerance remain undiminished worldwide. Two decades after the Rwandan genocide, we continue to bear witness to human cruelty and horror – in Syria, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic, for example. Meanwhile, a billion or so of the world’s poorest people, including women and children, are barely surviving.

Northeast Asia has its share of trouble. A rising China, a resurgent Japan, an assertive Russia, and an anachronistic North Korea have added new complexities and uncertainties to the region. The latter’s pursuit of nuclear arms is particularly worrying. On its part, the United States is now “rebalancing” toward Asia.

Growing conflicts over history, territory, and maritime security, combined with an ugly resurgence of nationalism, risk triggering military confrontation, quite possibly through political miscalculation. Left unattended by policymakers and peacemakers, Northeast Asia’s tensions could undermine the region’s flourishing economy.

It is in this challenging environment that the Republic of Korea’s president, Park Geun-hye, took office in 2013. Her foreign policy – called “Trustpolitik” – aims to transform this atmosphere of suspicion and conflict into one of confidence and cooperation, and to build “a new Korean Peninsula, a new Northeast Asia, and a new world.”

The greatest obstacle to achieving this transformation is the North Korean nuclear question. Over the last couple of months, North Korea has threatened to carry out yet another nuclear test. Today’s most urgent task therefore must be to prevent this from happening, and then to check further advances in the North’s nuclear weapons and delivery capabilities.

The semblance of peace on the Korean Peninsula remains fragile, and South Korea’s government has engaged in intensive diplomatic efforts to rally friends and partners in the region and worldwide to deter the North. The UN Security Council has adopted a series of resolutions to impose extensive sanctions, following the North’s three previous nuclear tests. Any further provocation will bring the full force of the organization’s sanctions to bear.

Under these circumstances – in addition to the dire human rights and humanitarian situation in North Korea – Park laid out her vision for a unified Korea. In a recent speech in Dresden, she proposed three concrete and action-oriented proposals to the North that would address its humanitarian problems, build infrastructure for the common welfare and prosperity of the two Koreas, and promote integration of the Korean people.

The humanitarian component of this strategy could be implemented regardless of political and security considerations. For example, it would involve implementing the UN’s 1,000-day project for maternal health and infant nutrition, aimed at ending the North’s chronically high rate of infant malnutrition. We can only hope that North Korea will respond positively to our proposal. It would be an important first step on a much longer journey.

Korea’s road to unification will undoubtedly be difficult, and will require the international community’s support. In return, the new, unified country that we aspire to build will serve the interests of its neighbors and those of the wider international community in promoting global peace and prosperity.

There is a recent precedent for this vision, and thus reason to be hopeful. Some 23 years ago, the geopolitical context that sustained the division of the two Germanys changed radically. Similarly, the day will come when Korea’s two UN nameplates will be replaced with one.

  • Contact us to secure rights


  • Hide Comments Hide Comments Read Comments (2)

    Please login or register to post a comment

    1. Commentedj. von Hettlingen

      Foreign Minister Yun wants to remind the international community of "70 years of national division" in 2015 and to highlight the goals of President Park Geun-hye, "Korean unification and global peace".
      Koreans have long dreamed of reuniting their two countries. To this end the Ministry of Unification was formed in 1968, which ushered in an era of dialogue, reconciliation and cooperation with the Communist North, hoping this would pave the way towards a united Korea, that provides for sustainable peace on the peninsula.
      South Korea has come a long way since partition in 1948. Today it is the world's 15th largest economy and one of Asia's most affluent countries. Having seen four decades of authoritarian rule, multi-party political system was restored in 1987.
      After years of hostility, Park's "Trustpolitik" should help build confidence between the two Koreas. Mutual mistrust is deep, with their border considered to be one of the world's last remaining military flashpoints. Pyongyang fears that Seoul intends to undermine or absorb the North. Direct talks had been held, but they ended in 1994, when the North's leader, Kim il-Sung died. Pyongyang was offended when Seoul did not send a message of condolence.
      In 1998 Kim Dae-jung was elected president. He was more conciliatory towards the North than his predecessors and said peace was more important than unification. South Korea was in an economic crisis, which prompted him to admit that the country couldn't afford a unification with the North. Nevertheless Koreans had swallowed their pride and asked the IMF for help. Their economy recovered and Kim's "sunshine policy" which aimed to bring the North out of isolation, had improved their relationship with Pyongyang.
      For his work for democracy, humans rights, peace and reconciliation with North Korea Kim was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2000. Four months earlier, North Korea's reclusive Kim Jong-il surprised everyone by appearing at the airport to greet Kim Dae-jung personally in a lavish welcome ceremony. Kim said he was fulfilling a lifelong dream to become the first South Korean leader to set foot in the communist North since division.
      While South Korea was preparing for Kim Jong-il to visit Seoul, new strains emerged that frayed the relations between the two countries. After the 9/11 attacks, Seoul issued an emergency alert against terrorism. George W Bush took a harder stance towards North Korea, saying it formed part of an "axis of evil". This had dismayed many South Koreans who backed their government's fragile engagement with the communist North. As a result to its nuclear weapons and missile tests, sanctions were imposed against the North in 2006.
      The "sunshine policy" ended with the election in 2008 of Lee Myung-bak, who adopted a tougher stance towards the North in response to its failure to give up the nuclear programme. A series of aggression put the South on high alert. In 2010 Obama strongly condemned North Korea's shelling of Yeonpyeong island and said the US would defend South Korea.
      Since Kim Jong-il's death his son Kim Jong-un succeeded. Young and untested, he has no empathy for his people, who suffer from chronic malnutrition. North Korea has been enduring severe food shortages since 1995, affecting large sections of its population. Floods and drought were made worse by agricultural mismanagement. Indeed, Seoul is aware of the challenges and knows that "Korea’s road to unification will undoubtedly be difficult". If it happens within her tenure, President Park will go down in history as the unifier of the two Koreas.

    2. CommentedMoctar Aboubacar

      뭔가 했더니 역시 개소리구나 개소리.
      아직도 독일 얘기를 하고 있는데 보다 근본적인 문제인 통일의 당위성을 하나도 논한 바가 없다. 제발 이 사이트에 실속 있는 글을 좀 올립시다.