International panelists discuss the prospect of reunification for Korea

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International panelists discuss the prospect of reunification for Korea

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Just two days before North Korea let loose its latest salvo of missiles, a forum on “Prospects for Peace and Reunification in Korea,” was held in Canberra and Seoul simultaneously. The forum, “Talkback Classroom,” was a monthly TV program by the National Museum of Australia aimed at helping young students understand current issues. The show was filmed in Studio 1 of the EBS (educational broadcasting system) building in Yangjae-dong, southern Seoul. Students in Canberra participated in the show through a digital video conference system. It was the first forum the show has based in Asia, following six similar productions with the United States and New Zealand.
“Australians need to look beyond our region. We chose Korea because there is a tradition of open discussion about politics here and the issue of reunification is vitally important to the world, and of course also in relation to Australia’s strategic interests,” said Stephen Cutting, the producer of Talkback Classroom.
The Australian panelists were Isaac Wright, an 11th year student at Boorowa Central School in New South Wales, and Georgina Sneddon, a 12th year student at St. Francis Xavier College in Canberra, ACT (Australian Capital Territory). The pair arrived in Korea on June 20 for a two-week stay. Before the forum, they visited significant sites, including the Demilitarized Zone, Joint Security Area, United Nations Cemetery and the Korean War Memorial, and also met Korean War veteran Baek Sun-yup, abductees’ families and experts in North-South relations.
Two Korean panelists, Rhee Min-young and Oh Dong-wook, both 11th grade students at Daeil Foreign Language High School in Seoul, joined the Australians in researching the issues surrounding reunification.
“The main learning experience for me was the importance of China in just about every issue of reunification,’” Isaac wrote on the Web site of the National Museum of Australia. “I found this out from interviews at the embassies of Australia and the United States and from interviews with Peter Beck [the director of the International Crisis Group].”
Isaac also wrote that the investigation made him question what future role Australia can play in Korean reunification, as it previously did in the Korean War.
Dong-wook said that he became more aware of the Australia-Korea relationship after visiting the UN cemetery and learning of the sacrifice of Australian soldiers for the sake of peace in Korea.
During the show, the opinions among the Korean student audience were divided almost down the middle on whether a planned trip by former President Kim Dae-jung should go ahead despite the missile crisis, while most Australian students believed that the South Korean government should continue their “carrot” or soft line approach to the North. Those views might have been different, however, if the show had been filmed after the missiles were launched.
Moon Chung-in, professor of Political Science at Yonsei University, also joined the forum. Dr. Moon accompanied former President Kim Dae-jung to the North-South summit in June 2000 and was a key player in the development of the “Sunshine Policy.” He currently serves as President Roh Moo-hyun’s special envoy on international affairs. He said that the South Korean government’s communication-oriented policy wouldn’t change even if the North launched its missiles.
The show is scheduled to be aired on July 23 at 6:50 p.m. on EBS. All panelists spoke their native languages.


by Park Sung-ha
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