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IAAP Considers the Possibility of a Neutral Unified Korea

Biel/Bienne, Switzerland—A UPF webinar asked if the two Koreas could end their decades-long separation by embracing political neutrality. The discussion, titled “A Neutral Korean Peninsula Based on the Swiss Model of Neutrality: A Solution for Peace and Security?” was hosted by UPF’s International Association of Academicians for Peace (IAAP). About 50 people took part in the online meeting, which was held on March 31, 2023.

Chantal Chételat Komagata, coordinator of UPF events in Switzerland and Europe, moderated the session.

Mélanie Komagata, who just completed her master’s degree in East Asian studies (University of Geneva/Geneva Graduate Institute), presented her master’s thesis, which examined whether the neutralization of the Korean Peninsula, based on the Swiss model of neutrality, could be a solution to the current security issues and geopolitical instability on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

Ms. Komagata explained the concept of neutrality, the theory and law of neutrality, the Swiss model and how it has brought internal and external security and balance to Europe, as well as the history of neutralization attempts on the Korean Peninsula.

The neutrality status needs to be accepted by the population of the concerned country, she said, as well as internationally and by law by the surrounding nations. Moreover, neutrality is a process in constant evolution, adapting to the current context.

She presented different scenarios for the implementation of the Swiss model of neutrality to the Korean Peninsula (North Korea or South Korea first/alone, dual neutrality/simultaneous but separately, confederation, unified) and assessed whether the Swiss characteristics of neutrality could be applicable, considering the current challenges of negotiations such as the end of the DPRK-China and ROK-USA alliances, the withdrawal of US troops, and the denuclearization of North Korea.

Important challenges remain to be met, she said, such as the internal political division in South Korea and the lack of consensus. These are not impossible to overcome, however, and she said that neutrality could bring about internal and external stability, security, and peace if the interests of all converge, just as in the case of Switzerland within Europe.

She also suggested that the simultaneous but separately processed neutralization of the two countries would be the best scenario, in a framework similar to that of Switzerland before 1815, which also was transformed progressively into a confederation (1815) and then to a federation (1848) model.

Two eminent respondents—Dr. Vana Kim Hansen (Ed.D.), co-chair of the Council for a Neutral Unified Korea, speaking from California, and Felix Abt, a Swiss business affairs specialist on North Korea and Vietnam—gave their viewpoints on her presentation, offering their own experiences in relation to neutrality and expressing their views on the possibility of a neutral Korea contributing to peace in Northeast Asia.

All three responded to several questions from the audience that were chosen by Dr. Juraj Lajda, the president of UPF in the Czech Republic.

By Chantal Chételat Komagata, coordinator, UPF Europe
Friday, March 31, 2023


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