September 2023
27 28 29 30 31 1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30


D.W. Lim: Address to World Summit 2013

PhotoFor the last few years there has been tension between North and South Korea, and the ties of trade have been cut off. Earlier this month, despite vigorous opposition, North Korea test-fired a nuclear missile, but our newly-elected government will put emphasis on peace in the Korean peninsula and the normalization of North-South Korea relations.

The core of the problem here is to put a stop to the division in the Korean peninsula. For thousands of years Korea had been a unified country. With the end of the Cold War in the 1990s, other divided countries have been reunified. There have been cataclysmic changes in the world, but Korea is still divided. In the divided situation, there is an effort for legitimacy and we cannot avoid the temptation to win the competition. There is always the possibility of war, and we cannot build peace. This threatens the peace in the Asian region.

About 20 years ago North and South Korea recognized each other as partners for peace and set about efforts to improve relationships with the formalization of a basic framework. But improvement between the two Koreas cannot be separated from relations between North Korea and the US. Former South Korea President Kim Dae Jung [1998 - 2003] persuaded U.S. President Clinton to promote coordination between Korea and the United States on the major policies and on peace. As a result, we had summit talks between North and South Korea and adopted a joint communiqué. The two leaders discussed the issue of reunification on the Korean peninsula. Unification should be achieved through peace, so it takes time and it takes a gradual approach. Unification is not just a goal but a process. South and North Korea should have exchanges before a legal unification. Even if it is not a perfect reunification, we should have a de facto unification before we have de jure unification. The process will reduce military expenditures and transform the ceasefire into a peace treaty. In order to speed up this process we agreed on the formation of a federation of Korea.

The gradual unification model was accepted and welcomed by the United States, China, and other neighboring countries. It was an ideal solution, and I was sure of that. A new chapter was opened in Korea for the age of reconciliation, and we were able to exchange personnel and resources between North Korea and South Korea. In diverse areas we witnessed exchanges. We were able to establish the industrial complex in Kaesong in North Korea, and we were able to dispatch workers to North Korea. There were as many as 120 South Korea businesses operating in North Korea, employing about 50,000 North Korean employees. With the intensification of exchanges, the tensions lessened and we were able to forge trust. The goal is far off, but it was a meaningful first step. With the increase of the exchanges, it was hoped that North Korea would be accessible and it would be able to develop a market economy.

Unfortunately, during the last five years there has been tension and there has been no progress on the North Korea issue. The Lee Myung Bak government [2008 - 2013] took a different approach from the previous South Korea administrations. Their approach was that without a resolution of the nuclear issue they were not willing to improve relations. All the agreements on cooperation were denied. Instead of hopes for gradual reunification, unification by absorption was adopted as the expected outcome. This was not a policy of engagement but a policy of oppression and sanctions. North Korea rejected it, and it has caused tension between the two countries. There have been even military confrontations. Bilateral communications, economic cooperation, and humanitarian assistance were stopped abruptly. Only one industrial complex remains in Kaesong.

Despite international objections North Korea has conducted nuclear tests. Why has North Korea conducted tests of nuclear weapons? We should think about this from the political, military, and technical perspectives. They want to use nuclear weapons as leverage. North Korea has demanded normalization of relations with the US and argues that test firing of the nuclear weapons was to control the United States. But it has intensified tensions on the Korean peninsula militarily. North Korea also used this nuclear card as a means to oppress the people because it felt threatened by the invasion by the US of Iraq. Feeling that its security is threatened, its position is that it cannot renounce nuclear development.

However, nuclear development has worsened the situation. It isolates North Korea and security cannot be guaranteed. More risks to security will occur. North Korea should realize that it cannot use the nuclear card as diplomatic leverage. It is trying to equip missiles with nuclear weapons. It wants to become a nuclear power. I think it will take some time to do so.

It has been 20 years since the nuclear issue first appeared, but a nuclear program in North Korea cannot be condoned. Nuclear development will threaten peace not only in northeast Asia but also the world. Moreover, it has the possibility of touching off a proliferation of nuclear weapons. Japan and South Korea may be tempted to do the same thing. Therefore, it should be stopped. The problem is how.

So far, the US exercised two options: one Clinton-style and the other Bush-style. The Clinton approach was to draw North Korea to the negotiating table, and the Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea was signed, stopping North Korea's development of nuclear capabilities. North Korea achieved normalization of diplomatic relations in place of nuclear development. The agreement contributed to the peace process on the Korean peninsula.

But the Bush administration said that it could not trust North Korea, and it criticized Clinton’s diplomatic and foreign policies. The Bush doctrine tried to put North Korea on a par with Iraq and Iran as an "axis of evil" and considered a military preemptive strike on North Korea. The Agreed Framework was ignored, North Korea conducted a nuclear test, and the peace process was suspended. The Bush administration put pressure on North Korea to give up its nuclear program. But North Korea did not submit to the pressure, demanding instead a guarantee of peace and normalization of relations. It conducted another nuclear test. There was some progress in the Six-Party talks, but they have been suspended, and North Korea continues to develop nuclear weapons. Recently, it conducted a third test.

We should cut this vicious circle and go in the opposite direction. Solutions have been put forward, but the issues are mistrust and a lack of will. We have to continue to find ways to draw North Korea to the negotiating table. We cannot solve this problem with oppression and sanctions. War cannot be an option. There should be give and take with North Korea. We should use both sticks and carrots. We should persuade North Korea that it can prosper without developing nuclear weapons. We need to ensure that they have this confidence, and the nuclear issue should be approached in the context of peace on the Korean peninsula. There should be a comprehensive, fundamental approach to the nuclear issue, such as improvement in relations between North and South Korea, reduction in military defense expenditures, and establishment of peace. These should go in tandem.

North Korea and the US should resume dialogue in earnest. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire. The parties to the ceasefire agreement – North Korea, South Korea, China, and the United States – should start dialogue. It takes time to reach a peace agreement, but through dialogue we can resume the peace process, reduce tensions, and help North Korea renounce nuclear testing. We can create an environment where we can establish peace. In that respect we look forward to the strong support and cooperation of the international community. We need to take a comprehensive and fundamental approach that will contribute to peace not only on the Korean peninsula but also in northeast Asia.

In closing, I have to remind you that the normalization of relations between two Koreas is important. It should spearhead the peace process. If we have normalization between North and South Korea, it can contribution to normalization between North Korea and the United States and between the United States and China. We have to make effort to reduce tensions with North Korea. Our newly elected president, Park Geun Hye, promised to abide by the agreements between North and South Korea and resume North-South dialogue without conditions. Regardless of the political situation, South Korea will continue to support North Korea with humanitarian aid. That was her campaign pledge. If this campaign pledge is implemented, the prospects for peace will be stronger.