A new history of Korean relationsThis year’s August was particularly long and hot. The military tension between South and North Koreas made it more exhausting. Now that it’s September, it is getting cooler. Fall is here finally, and the cool, autumn breeze is blowing between two Koreas. After the dramatic resolution of the high-level talks on Aug. 25, the working-level meeting on family reunions is scheduled for Sept. 7 at Panmunjom. After Seoul proposed a meeting on Aug. 28, Pyongyang agreed the next day. Mao Zedong said enemies become friends when they grow tired of fighting. Hopefully, Seoul and Pyongyang will become friends this time.
If we were to become friends, we need to be careful from the beginning. Lights are followed by shadows, and we may be faced with obstacles and oppositions. Just as an opportunity comes after a crisis, a crisis may follow the opportunity. We’ve had enough celebration for the successful high-level talks, so let’s prepare thoroughly.
The division of the Korean Peninsula is a product of the Cold War. In order to overcome the division and accomplish reunification, we need to end the Cold War and pursue peace. And we need the support and cooperation of neighbors. When we create conditions where peace and reunification benefit the national interests of the neighbors, we can secure their support and cooperation.
While U.S. President Barack Obama’s North Korean policy is called “strategic patience,” it is more like “negligence after disappointment.” After Obama made the first agreement with the North on Feb. 29, 2012, North Korea launched a long-range missile on April 13. The agreement was discarded, and U.S.-North relations have cooled down.
The same goes for China. A month before Chinese President Xi Jinping was elected, North Korea conducted its third nuclear test. The timing was especially bad since it was during China’s biggest holiday, the Spring Festival. Then Beijing-Pyongyang relations became awkward. Using the opportunity, Japan and Russia worked hard to take North Korea’s hand. Japan sent a special envoy to Pyongyang in 2013 and tried to improve relations through the Stockholm Agreement last year. On April 27, Russia signed an agreement on economic trade and technological cooperation. The international community moves according to national interests.
Therefore, Korea needs to propose policy alternatives first and seek support and cooperation from neighbors. Peace and reunification will not come from outside entities. Chief of the National Security Office Kim Kwan-jin and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo, the South Korean delegates in the contact, should meet with government officials and the Korean Peninsula experts from the United States, China, Japan and Russia to explain the details of the contact and seek their understanding and support. Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico (1668-1744) said that God created the world, but history is made by men. The time has come to write a new history of inter-Korean relations. It is the destiny given to Kim and Hong.
The author is a researcher at the Unification Research Institute, JoongAng Ilbo.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 31, Page 30
by KO SOO-SUK