Blueprint for peaceful unification

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Blueprint for peaceful unification

The JoongAng Ilbo-sponsored special project “Peace Odyssey,” in which 37 former prime ministers, cabinet members, lawmakers, journalists and artists took part, completed its three-month journey. They experienced the scars of national division, and contemplated the difficult path toward lasting peace. On Tuesday, they drew up a manifesto with proposals for society to work towards for the goal of peace, co-prosperity and unification.

In June, the participants travelled 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) along the Chinese border with North Korea to witness how starkly the two Koreas remain separated. They crossed the bridge that has been cut off on the Yalu River to relive the war losses and looked at the crumbling remnants of Goryo dynasty (918-1392) that have been left unattended by Chinese authorities with a sense of helplessness. They tearfully sang “Arirang” atop Mount Paekdu on a unusually clear and bright day on June 25, the anniversary of North Korea’s invasion of the South.

Three seminars held in China and Korea produced valuable insights on the path towards peaceful unification. The 37 intellectuals discussed the topic passionately based on their rich experiences and wisdom. Whether they are conservative and liberal, they share this goal, proving that differing views that often led to conflict in society can actually be beneficial.

Our universal goal of peace and unification has been interrupted by frequent changes in North Korean policy every time the government changes. But the general public’s belief and wishes have remained the same. It had been the politicians who spurred conflict and widened the gap in North Korean policy. If South Koreans jointly with our neighbors - China and Japan - increase contact and communication with North Korean, we may be able to change the mood in Northeast Asia towards peace and co-prosperity. The Peace Odyssey was completed after proposing peace and unification and unity among Northeast Asians.

The two Koreas must cooperate and find ways for co-prosperity among themselves amid escalating tensions in the region from China’s ascent and the United States’s rebalanced power policy. But peace and unification cannot result from words and belief. We must work hard and persistently to make the dream come true. We must tend to our internal fissures first. We must mend the gaps across the generation, region, class, and ideology in order to build a bigger bridge across the two Koreas. The Peace Odyssey should be the start and the guiding light.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 1, Page 30

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