Dealing with collective self-defenseFrom Oct. 21 to 29, I was invited to give speeches to overseas Koreans concerning peace on the Korean Peninsula and the role of Korean diaspora in Sydney and Canberra in Australia. The purpose of the lectures was to survey the influence of suffrage and dual citizenship and to increase the understanding of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.
After the decision to give suffrage to overseas Koreans, the local Korean community seemed to be divided over ideology, region and political affiliation, and after the last presidential election, political organizations supporting ruling and opposition parties have been formed. It is expected that the ruling and opposition parties would intensely seek to win votes from overseas Koreans in the 2016 general elections and the 2017 presidential election.
In my lecture, I pointed out that the overseas Korean community’s division and discord over Korean political issues was problematic. It seemed anachronistic to have an ideological confrontation over an already determined outcome even when they are living in Australia. When I proposed that the overseas Koreans should judge the Korean politicians who habitually engage in political strife with votes, many attendees agreed.
The overseas Koreans were most interested in the latest developments in affairs on the Korean Peninsula. They particularly focused on the significance of Washington’s acknowledgment of Japan’s right to collective self-defense and urged Korea to accept it as well.
They were also concerned about the potential impact on their business relations with China if Korea formed a military alliance against China. They were worried about whether China would maintain the policy of separating business and politics in such a case, and whether Korea would be able to have a balanced foreign policy with China and the United States for national interests.
Overseas Koreans recalled the sacrifices and sufferings the Korean Peninsula went through whenever international dynamics around the peninsula changed, as it did in the Sino-Japanese War, Russo-Japanese War, the Pacific War and the 1950-53 Korean War.
As the 70th anniversary of the liberation approaches, they are wary of the signs that the United States was trying to rearm Japan to play as its proxy.
What choice should Korea make? Korea is in a complicated dilemma of “security with the United States and business with China.” The imbalanced international relations of security and economy is a challenge. However, Korea is not a stumbling empire or fledgling republic anymore. Korea has become the only established nation to attain both democratization and industrialization among more than 140 new and independent states since World War II. While Korea is surrounded by powerful neighbors, Korea’s choice may affect the course of the giants. How should Korea act now?
First, Korea needs to focus on deterring a war and keeping peace on the Korean Peninsula. To Korea, peace is indispensable. Peaceful co-existence, exchange and cooperation are more important than peaceful reunification at this moment. We need to have peace to make sure both South and North Korea have enough to live on.
Second, we need to do our best to persuade the United States to hold six-party and four-party meetings for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program. We should keep in mind that the blade of rearmed Japan may point at the Korean Peninsula if the tension prolongs.
Third, we should make it clear that Korea would not participate in a military alliance against China while Korea remains faithful to the ROK-U.S. Mutual Defense Agreement. If we should form a military alliance with Japan, which justifies its aggression and war crimes of the past, citizens would become enraged, and we would also suffer North Korea’s criticism for betraying national conscience.
Fourth, we should actively seek to create an East Asian security and economic cooperative organization like the Helsinki Accord. A plan of forming a peace community that includes the United States, China, Russia, Japan, South and North Korea and some Southeast Asian nations as members would not only open a new horizon of international politics for Korea but also help to establish a new power balance in the confrontational structure between the United States and China.
Powerful nations are not the only ones leading international relations today. As the time changes, the meaning of each nation changes. Decentralization, global exchanges between regions and international alliance of civil society are enhanced. We have to have conviction that Korea can and should become the core of the East Asian peace movement, and it is the flow of the world history.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author is a senior adviser of the Democratic Party.
by Lee Bu-young