Peace Prize Politics

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Peace Prize Politics

Will President Kim Dae-jung get the Nobel Peace Prize this year? A Norwegian pressman recently commented on this issue by saying, "The Korean unification process doesn’t fully qualify for a Nobel Peace Prize yet. It is possible for President Kim to receive the prize, but it is not probable that it will happen in reality."

He said there would have to be new progress in South-North relations during August and September as the Nobel Prize screening process will be finalized by the middle of October. For instance, Kim Jong-il's visit to Seoul or at least an announcement of his itinerary to Seoul, or the commencement of the restoration of the railway line between Seoul and the North would need to be publicized.

Among 150 candidates for this year’s Nobel Peace prize, President Kim and President Clinton are two of the most prominent. If peace in the Middle East is realized, there is a high possibility that the Nobel Peace Prize will go to President Clinton and Prime Minister Barak. However, right now peace does not seem to be coming to the Middle East that easily. On the other hand, President Kim's 'sunshine policy' is worth noting as it has demolished the atmosphere of conflict between the two Koreas, and is working toward liquidating the last remaining cold war structure in the world.

However, the case for Kim Jong-il is not so simple. It is usual that a Nobel Peace Prize for a peaceful resolution of conflict is given jointly to the leaders of both sides. Examples abound. Henry Kissinger and Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam in 1973, Sadat of Egypt and Begin of Israel in 1978, Mandela and De Klerk of South Africa in 1993, Arafat of Palestine and Rabin and Peres of Israel in 1994, and John Hume and David Trimble of North Ireland in 1998.

In order for Kim Jong-il to be a joint winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the U.S. would have to remove North Korea from its list of rogue countries. For this, the improvement of North Korea-U.S. relations based on North Korea's renunciation of nuclear missiles is essential. It is also not helpful for improving North Korea's image if the North continues to try to intervene in South Korean affairs by using abusive language toward certain political parties and elements of the news media.

There was little ground to expect that President Kim would receive the Nobel Peace Prize last year. However, the situation is different this year. Unless the Middle East peace process is concluded in a dramatic way, President Kim will stand a very good chance. If peace on the Korean peninsula, created by improved South-North relations, is still short of qualification for a Nobel Peace Prize, it has room to grow and will stand an even better chance next year as long as the North does not change its attitude.

Peace and Literature are the areas where the awarding of the Nobel Prize is most often followed by criticism and rumors. When Churchill was awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1953, not in Peace, there was a strong suspicion of political pressure from England. When the Japanese Prime Minister Sato Eisaku received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 for the non-nuclear declaration, criticism on the meagreness of his achievement was accompanied by suspicions about the influence of Japan’s economic power. Nixon was shameless enough to publish a book and to mobilize lobbyists and national resources in his attempt to get a Nobel Peace Prize for his achievement of improving U.S.-China relations in 1972. He was simultaneously embroiled in an unjustifiable war in Vietnam and eventually had to withdraw from candidacy.

Prizes are given on the results of efforts, not for ambitions alone and the Nobel Peace Prize is no exception. South-North relations are still treading on thin ice. If the leaders of the two Koreas earnestly devote themselves to the Korean people's wish to be free from war, instead of trying to hypnotize them with the rhetoric of peace without actual results, the two Kims will be qualified for the prize.

Thomas Jefferson said he could not perform a great work relying on a poor majority. In other words internal consensus is an essential condition for the success of external policies. The success of the 'sunshine policy' also depends on reconciliation between various sectors in the South. Sound South-North relations cannot be realized in the midst of endless confrontations between the ruling and opposition parties. We should remind ourselves that the starting point for the Nobel Peace Prize is Seoul, not Pyongyang.

by Kim Young-hie

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