A step toward peace and prosperityWe face many obstacles when trying to reach peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia. One of them is the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Over the past year, North Korea has fired long-range missiles and conducted its third nuclear test in February, despite warnings and threats from the international community.
Although the international community has made continuous efforts to peacefully resolve the North’s provocative actions, no tangible outcome has been seen. The North’s nuclear arms capability was steadily reinforced while the reclusive Communist regime maintains an extremely uncomfortable relationship with the outside world. The North’s human rights record has also shown little improvement.
For the North to become a responsible member of the international community, efforts to restore its economy and improve the lives of its citizens are necessary. To this end, the North must reconsider its strategy of nuclear possession and improve its cooperation and exchanges with the international community in order to develop its ailing economy. At the same time, Northeast Asia must present a plan through which it can work with the North to resolve its fundamental security and economic problems. Now is the time to re-evaluate the past policies and strategies of either engaging or pressuring the North and come up with a new approach.
For a second year, the Kim Jong-un regime has attempted to introduce various economic changes, and we must pay attention to them. As we pay attention to this, an alternative can be providing assistance to the North through a multilateral economic cooperation approach so that Pyongyang will work with the international community by making economic developments and improvements of people’s lives its top priority. To this end, we must listen seriously to the creative and insightful opinions from the experts of the governments in Northeast Asia, international financial organizations and global non-governmental groups.
International financial organizations, in particular, have managed to bring about many meaningful changes through global development and cooperation projects with Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma. After having serious consultations with these organizations, these developing nations were able to improve transparency through various projects, such as micro-financing programs.
This cooperation process encouraged stability and growth in the developing economics of these countries and improved regional peace. This experience and know-how can serve as an example when coming up with a plan for the North.
North Korea, of course, is a country of peculiar history, geopolitics and identity, but the late leader Kim Jong-il already made a promise that his people will never have to tighten their belts again. If the North shows its willingness to cooperate with the international community to live up to that promise, its future is not dark.
South Korea and the international community are always ready to provide practical assistance if the North’s leadership shows willingness and makes rational choices. The international symposium hosted by Kyungnam University’s Institute for Far Eastern Studies and the Export-Import Bank of Korea at the Conrad Hotel in Seoul yesterday gave shape to such preparations.
At the conference, economists from the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, as well as experts from Northeast Asian countries, presented vivid cases of reform in Burma, Vietnam and Eastern Europe. They also offered sharp analyses and evaluations on the various economic changes in the current Kim regime.
At the same time, they discussed the globalization plan for the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the North’s development of special economic zones as well as South Korea-China-Russia cooperation, and presented specific global cooperation plans, offering us ample policy previews to think about. Expectations are high that the symposium will serve as an important opportunity to open up a new Northeast Asian era of peace and prosperity.
Translation by the Korea JoongAng Daily staff.
*The author, a former minister of unification, is the president of Kyungnam University.
by Park Jae-kyu