A big diplomatic stage opensWhen President Park Geun-hye was having her first phone conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the Korean Cultural Center in Beijing was hosting a publishing party for the Chinese edition of “Park Geun-hye’s Life,” President Park’s biography published in Korea last August. As the sixth speaker gave a celebratory speech and stepped down from the podium, a familiar name was introduced. The audience was stirred. It was Park Tong-sun, the key figure of the so-called “Koreagate,” a controversial lobbying scandal that affected Korea-U.S. relations in 1976.
At the time, the Park Chung Hee administration was desperate to prepare a military and security plan following the withdrawal of the U.S. forces in Korea. Korean-American businessmen Park Tong-sun and Kim Han-jo, who passed away last year, were found to have disbursed financial incentives to members of the U.S. Congress and government officials.
The host introduced Park as a “civilian diplomat.” He was in attendance at the invitation of the People’s Publishing House, the host of the event. Park reminisced about memories of Park Geun-hye when she was the president’s daughter and celebrated the future of Korea-China relations. The People’s Publishing House, which invited Park to the event, is managed by the Chinese government. Beijing initiated the publication of the Chinese edition of Park Geun-hye’s biography, and the translation was done hurriedly - only two weeks before publication. It seems that the publication was arranged in time for the first conversation between the two heads of state, suggesting Xi’s high hopes for President Park. Beijing’s considerate gesture expands the space for diplomacy between the two countries.
As North Korea unilaterally scrapped the armistice agreement and elevated the intensity of threats, Chinese people are posting mourning messages for Peng Dehuai in cyberspace. As the commander of the Chinese Communist Forces, Peng participated in the 1950-53 Korean War and left his name in the truce agreement. Peng and Xi Zhongxun, Xi Jinping’s father and former vice premier, had a special friendship on the battlefield. During the Chinese Civil War, Peng was the commander of the Northwest Field Army and Xi was the political commissar.
After the Korean War broke out, Peng participated in the war. The Korean War has a special meaning to Xi’s family. Xi Jinping said China participated in a “war of justice.” To him, Peng Dehuai also symbolizes justice. As it becomes clear that China’s strategic focus is the geopolitical value of North Korea, not the Kim regime, a bigger stage for Korean and Chinese diplomats has been set up.
King Muyeol of the Shilla Dynasty established the foundation for unification through realistic political negotiations with Yeon Gaesomun of the Goguryeo Dynasty and Emperor Taizong of China’s Tang Dynasty. We desperately need strategists who can write the scenario of unification through discussions with China. It is a job we expect the new ambassador to China, Kwon Young-se, to fill.
* The author is the Beijing correspondent for the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Cheong Yong-whan