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H. Kim: Address to World Summit 2022, Session VII

Address to World Summit
February 11-13, 2022



I am Hyung Suk Kim, former deputy minister of unification of the Republic of Korea. Congratulations on the Summit for Peace on the Korean Peninsula. I am honored to be able to share my thoughts on peace on the peninsula.

As the attendees know through the media, et cetera, the current situation on the peninsula is complex and worrisome.

In 2018, three inter-Korean summits and two U.S.-North Korea summits were held. I had high hopes that spring would come to the peninsula after a long wait.

However, in February 2019, the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi, Vietnam ended without results. Afterwards, North Korea took a hardline stance as it protested the breakdown of the talks.

And in 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak spread all over the world. There is a huge barrier to communication between countries. North Korea blocks the border between China and Russia, and it has entered the world’s strongest self-containment posture.

The breakdown in the U.S.-North Korea negotiations, North Korea’s backlash and the pandemic have contributed to the current situation on the Korean Peninsula, which is by no means optimistic, as you can see today.

In January of this new year of 2022, there were seven armed demonstrations, including medium- and long-range ballistic missiles, in North Korea.

The country said that its successive armed protests are for the safety of the sovereign state. It has argued that they are legitimate in accordance with the five-year plan for strengthening and developing national defense capabilities.

In addition, North Korea should abolish its double standard: it claims it has lost the fairness of the international community—which has a hostile policy toward it because of its defense strengthening activities—while at the same time threatening to resume nuclear activities that the international community is concerned about. This includes nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile launches, which were suspended during inter-Korean and U.S.-North Korea talks in 2018.

Under these circumstances, the keeping the door open for diplomacy and dialogue with North Korea without preconditions. The goal is denuclearization of the peninsula, and the U.S. is calling on the international community to come together to impose sanctions on North Korea’s violations of UN Security Council resolutions.

China and Russia, which play an important role in resolving the Korean Peninsula issue, have not responded to UN Security Council discussions, led by the U.S., on the issue of North Korea’s successive missile launches.

Instead, recent conflict between the U.S. and China has involved the U.S. diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, while conflict between the U.S. and Russia over the Ukraine crisis shows no sign of resolution. It is regrettable that the North Korean issue is not a priority in the interests of the leaders of the U.S., China and Russia.

What we all have in common today at this Summit is the wish for peace and prosperity on the peninsula and ultimately peaceful reunification.

The question is how to realistically achieve these common goals.

First, since the division of Korea in August 1945, efforts have been made for peace and stability on and the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula, both at the level of inter-Korean relations and at the international level, including the UN.

There are no voices arguing that war should break out on the peninsula or that the North and South should forever be divided.

Second, the core of the Korean Peninsula issue is North Korea. The change of the South Korean government and the position of the U.S., China and Russia may slow the resolution of the Korean Peninsula problem, but since they are not the main factors causing the issue, we should focus on North Korea and move forward.

This is to look at North Korea from the North’s point of view, not ours, and pursue a consistent North Korea policy that is not affected by changes in situation, such as internal regime change, so that North Korea can move in the direction we want. Just as West Germany—which brought about a kind of German unification—had a consistent East Germany policy, so too would South Korea and the international community like to have a consistent policy to bring about change in North Korea.

Third, there is a need to strengthen the role of the private sector in changing North Korea. It is said that commercial transactions and humanitarian aid are carried out at the private level even during interstate wars. When the role of the authorities in the diplomatic or military-security dimension is added along with the role of the private sector to communicate and exchange with North Korea at various levels, it will be possible to effectively bring about change in the North while stably managing the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

The center of North Korean society is shifting from the generation of anti-Japanese partisans [who were born] before 1950 to the younger generation who prefer economic prosperity and convenience in life such as access to information and communication. With there over 500 market stalls, there more than 5 million cell phones, and the spread of Hallyu culture in North Korea, it is difficult for the North Korean authorities to recklessly suppress the desires of the civilian population. North Korea tried to weaken the power of donju in the market through currency reform in 2009, but when it did not work, it changed its relationship with the market to one of coexistence.

North Korea’s leadership is highly likely to accept the current trend that brings economic prosperity as long as it does not harm their position. Even Chairman Kim Jong-un will not be able to lose sight of economic prosperity based on his experience studying abroad in Bern, Switzerland as a youth. At the beginning of his administration, he promised to solve the problem of food, clothing and order for the North Korean people. And while firing missiles one after another, he hoped to build an economic powerhouse to improve people’s living standards through such projects as the construction of a modernized socialist rural area and a modern general hospital in Pyongyang. An economic and social approach is worth trying.

It is expected Southeast Asian countries will play a key role in putting these three ideas into practice. North Korea will open its ears and listen to the voices of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries, which have strong solidarity with North Korea.

As ASEAN countries communicate with North Korea, the international community can recognize that North Korea’s economic growth and system maintenance are possible through cooperation with the international community. If the changes in North Korea bring stability and prosperity to the Korean Peninsula, it will be beneficial to Southeast Asian countries as well. In this respect, the plan of Cambodia and UPF—which are establishing diplomatic ties with the two Koreas at the same time—to actively engage North Korea for peace on the peninsula is very meaningful and expected to bear full fruit.

Once again, I am honored to be able to participate in this meaningful Summit and share my thoughts on the peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula based on my experiences at the Ministry of Unification in the government of the Republic of Korea.

Thank you.



To go to the World Summit 2022 Schedule page, click here.