Peace foundation chairman says Korea is at a tipping point

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Peace foundation chairman says Korea is at a tipping point


Hong Seok-Hyun, chairman of the Korea Peace Foundation, speaks at the Pohang University of Science and Technology in North Gyeongsang Thursday. [WOO SANG-JO]

“This is the moment of truth for inter-Korean relations,” said Hong Seok-hyun, chairman of the Korea Peace Foundation, at the Pohang University of Science and Technology (Postech) in North Gyeongsang on Thursday.

“It is a watershed moment in which things can be resolved well, or catastrophe could return,” said Hong, also a former Korean ambassador to the United States and the chairman of JoongAng Holdings, during a keynote speech at a symposium that marked the launch of the Postech Peace Institute.

“Our government has to play a role in resolving the stalemate between the United States and North Korea by pushing for an innovative approach,” Hong continued. “The final destination is achieving permanent denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula, and we have to bear in mind that there is no Plan B.”

Hong was a member of President Moon Jae-in’s delegation to Pyongyang for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un from Sept. 18 to 20. Hong said that Kim Jong-un and his younger sister Kim Yo-jong, the first vice director of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, “held resolve in their eyes that ‘things can’t continue this way.’”

“Regardless of whether they have made the decision or not, our job is to continue to propose the conditions and structure to induce them to make that decision,” Hong said.

Hong pointed out that some continue to be skeptical of North Korea’s sincerity.

“Within the United States, there are many who do not view that Chairman Kim has really decided to denuclearize,” he said. But Kim Jong-un “has referred to denuclearization himself,” so it is “role of the leadership to make the systems to help realize this.”

Hong recalled that during Moon’s Sept. 19 address at the May Day Stadium in Pyongyang, in front of some 150,000 North Korean citizens, the South Korean president said that Kim Jong-un committed to a Korean Peninsula “free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threats.”

Stressing the need for Kim to make a visit to Seoul, Hong said, “Chairman Kim, in turn, has to reconfirm his resolve to implement his pledge to denuclearization at a place like the [South Korean] National Assembly.”

He continued, “I hope the return visit happens at an early date.”

A second summit between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader’s visit to the South were two key factors and “the first and second steps on the Korean Peninsula peace odyssey,” he said.

Hong, however, expressed concern over a return to a state of crisis should the current standoff in denuclearization negotiations continue. He warned that, if the issue is not resolved, “We may return to the state of the past - that must never happen.”

He said that South Korean has to control the speed at which it carries out inter-Korean projects in cooperation with the United States, and that there must be domestic cooperation within the South before North-South projects can advance.

“The future is determined by how inter-Korean relations are resolved,” said Kim Doh-yeon, the president of Postech, in his welcoming address at the symposium.

Kim added that “the science and technology sector is not an exception to this.”

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