Fixing the Northeast Asia Paradox

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Fixing the Northeast Asia Paradox

The 16th annual J-Global Forum sponsored by the JoongAng Ilbo, JTBC television network and the Yumin Cultural Foundation provided an invaluable opportunity to seek a new order in East Asia. At the annual forum, participants sought to find better ways to establish a symbiotic environment for mutual cooperation in the conflict-prone area after heated debates on how far the rivalry between America and China will go and how to resolve the so-called Northeast Asia Paradox - in which territorial and historical disputes are heightened even as economic interdependence deepens. Diverse views on those issues gave us hope that they will help avert a catastrophe in which competition between Korea and Japan, Korea and China, and the United States and China get out of hand.

Seoul National University Prof. Park Cheol-hee and Der Spiegel New Delhi bureau chief Wieland Wagner came up with the novel idea of resolving territorial and historical disputes. It is better to manage such problems in a scaled-down fashion rather than arbitrarily try to change the status quo, they said. In other words, it would be more effective to “freeze” all the thorny issues that concerned parties cannot agree on - in a sort of “bad bank.”

Some presenters highlighted the need for civil society to take the lead in paving the way for reconciliation if political leaders fail to demonstrate the outstanding leadership of Charles de Gaulle or Konrad Adenauer.

Despite diverse perspectives, attendees unanimously stressed the importance of dialogue. Professor Park underscored that no dialogue cannot be a substitute for dialogue, while Wagner emphasized the need for the Helsinki Process - the gradual implementation of cooperation in economic, scientific and technological fields between NATO and WTO members for the ultimate goal of establishing a framework for peaceful coexistence during the Cold War.

The concept - quite similar to President Park Geun-hye’s “trustpolitik” on the Korean Peninsula - could provide a meaningful turning point in deadlocked inter-Korean relations.

Participants also looked into the possibility of Northeast Asia moving toward a regional integration like the European Union. The audience also enjoyed rare access to understanding the pending issues of the region.

Northeast Asia has become the center of the world’s problems. If the unprecedented rivalry and conflicts expand, it would certainly threaten the stability of the world. We hope the forum helps provide a substantial clue to solving the conundrum.

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