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S. Yoon: Address to World Summit

Address to World Summit 2019, Seoul, Korea, February 7–11, 2019


Greetings. I am Sang Hyun Yoon, a member of the Korean National Assembly. I am aware that we have over 60 former and current heads of state and parliamentarians from 108 nations with us today. I would like to offer my sincere gratitude in inviting me to this meaningful occasion as the presenter representing the Korean National Assembly.

I heard that you invited me, perhaps, knowing how my affiliated standing committee is the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee of Korea and that I am expecting to be appointed as the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee chairman in the near future. Being here with this in mind, I would like to speak regarding the “Prediction of the Korean Peninsula’s State of Affairs and Direction of International Cooperation in 2019,” and seek active cooperation from the international community.

The Shift in the Korean Peninsula’s State of Affairs in 2018

The Korean Peninsula was under an intense spotlight from the entire world to the point of hosting not just three Inter-Korean Summits, but the first-ever U.S.–North Korea Summit during the year 2018.

I believe you all must have witnessed the scene of President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un meeting in Sentosa, Singapore, last June. I believe you all would also remember seeing President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un presenting the agreement statement.

The main core of the declaration the two leaders signed on that day states as follows: First, they will advance new North Korea–U.S. relations for peace and prosperity. Second, the U.S. and North Korea will make joint efforts to establish a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Third, North Korea will make efforts toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

If we are to look even until just the day prior, it was a weak agreement in comparison to the complete and irreversible denuclearization that Secretary of State Pompeo emphasized. However, although the exchange led to the perceived possibility of some sort of secret agreements, I have come to think that, in fact, if we look at the previous year overall, another year merely passed with no notable progress toward North Korea’s denuclearization.

North Korea’s Denuclearization and Surrounding Issues

Seeing how the United States is not alleviating economic sanctions to North Korea, it can be said that North Korea feels it is unfair from its position of having demolished the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site and discarded its missile launchers. However, what is of importance here is that North Korea did not keep its promises from the U.S.–North Korea Summit from the start. It is how North Korea, at the time of the Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site’s demolition, rejected the entrance of professionals for verification, allowing only cameramen to enter and publicizing only the scene of the explosion. However, considering this debacle, although North Korea has stated that it may allow onsite verification from professionals six months after the fact, it is difficult to trust its credibility.

Now that North Korea has even dismantled its Tongch’ang-ri Space Launch Center, North Korea is demanding that the United States must come forth in signing a ceasefire agreement and remove North Korean sanctions. You may be led to believe that North Korea is truly changing if you are not someone who has been doing professional research regarding the Korean Peninsula crisis.

However, if we see from North Korea’s position of having carried out six nuclear experiments, it can, in fact, be seen as North Korea having reached a stage in which additional nuclear experiments are unnecessary. From this perspective, we cannot view North Korea as voluntarily renouncing or disarming its stockpiled nuclear weapons, thus far through the destruction of its Punggye-ri Nuclear Test Site alone. In addition, if we are to see from the perspective of the situation already having advanced to enable missiles, including medium- and long-range ballistic missiles, to be launched from tracked launch vehicles, in fact, it is difficult to assign significance even to the dismantlement of Tongch’ang-ri Space Launch Center.

Amid this situation, North Korea is demanding that the United States remove North Korean sanctions with the promise that it will dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear reactor, which produces plutonium, as the card that will alleviate North Korean sanctions from the United States and the international community. The Korean government assesses this as North Korea having made a firm resolution.

In fact, this is quite significant progress. In the past, North Korea, at the time of Chairman Kim Jong-il’s rise into power, displayed a performance of demolishing the Yongbyon nuclear reactor’s cooling tower for negotiations with U.S. President Bush. With Chairman Kim Jong-un going as far to say that North Korea will completely demolish the said facility, it is indeed a measure that is a step in the right direction. 

However, if we to examine this again more closely, in fact, the Yongbyon nuclear reactor has no big significance from North Korea’s perspective. The plutonium-extracting Yongbyon nuclear reactor is being monitored real-time by the United States, and there is no actual benefit despite its symbolism. From this perspective, North Korea has already been using high-speed centrifuges from the early 2000s to produce the base materials for nuclear weapons yielding the same effect as plutonium. This is precisely the real problem. The United States and the international community are, in actuality, clueless about how many nuclear facilities are in operation and where they are.

Prediction of the Korean Peninsula’s State of Affairs in 2019

Therefore, if the United States is to have discussions regarding denuclearization, it is bound to request information about such facilities, and North Korea is bound to respond by saying it will implement corresponding measures if the United States first removes North Korean sanctions.

North Korea and the United States have been in a tug-of-war regarding this during the past seven to eight months, yielding no benefits whatsoever. However, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun recently announced that the United States will loosen the travel ban affecting Americans wanting to go to North Korea. Although the condition of humanitarian aid was attached, this, in fact, appears to be a sign that the United States will remove North Korean sanctions.

It is becoming known that the second North Korea–U.S. Summit will be held in Da Nang, Vietnam, at around the end of February. There is also the possibility of this being an opportunity to set up a U.S.–North Korea liaison office, and it is even being said that the United States will use private funds and invest trillions of won in North Korea to propel its denuclearization. There is also information stating that there will be an escrow account that can secure the large-scale funds of a third party for this. This may correlate with how Japan is emphasizing the possibility of active cooperation with North Korea.

If viewed from this perspective, there is the possibility of a more rapid advancement of the state of affairs in the Korean Peninsula in 2019 than in the previous year. In 2018, with the United States being in charge and the Korean government making only efforts, Mount Kumgang tourism, the Kaesong Industrial Complex, the inter-Korean railroad and road-linking enterprises were unable to bear proper results. However, following the U.S.–North Korea Summit in February, there is the possibility of inter-Korean economic cooperation and exchange significantly increasing under U.S. cooperation.

The Necessity of International Interest and Cooperation

Of course, those with a conservative outlook regarding this situation claim that, in the end, denuclearization will become impossible if economic sanctions are removed because nothing in North Korea has changed, and the international community must maintain strong sanctions.

On the other end, those with a progressive outlook claim that sanctions must be removed in stages because there is no chance that North Korea will renounce its nuclear weapons first. This means that they demand that the United States give a piece of the carrot, as well.

The perspective that the current state of affairs of the Korean Peninsula is heading in line with North Korea’s demands is more dominant. This may, perhaps, present a realistic option. When viewed from this perspective, what is more important is not only the United States but the entire world encouraging North Korea to keep its promises. North Korea must be informed of the fact that stronger pressure and sanctions await if it breaks its promises again. From this perspective, if the over 60 former and current heads of state, as well as over 400 parliamentarians from 108 nations in attendance today, resolve and cooperate under the name of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace, I believe that you will provide tremendous aid in propelling North Korea’s denuclearization, which is unachievable by the United Nations or United States alone.

Respected Members of the International Association of Parliamentarians for Peace, 110 years ago, Korea underwent the pain of losing its sovereignty and being degraded into a colony. However, in 1919, the entire nation rose, conducted its independence movement, and established a provisional government in Shanghai, China. This year marks the hundredth anniversary since then. Many say that South Korea’s development until today is a miracle.

That is the case. Currently, as the Korean Peninsula has been divided for the long period of over 70 years, twice the 35 years it spent as a colony, there are those who say that unification is difficult. However, if the parliamentarians and religious leaders from 108 nations in attendance today unite their efforts under one voice for the unification of South and North Korea, I believe a united Korea will be more quickly advanced.

I would once again like to offer my gratitude to all the parliamentarians from various nations across the world here in attendance. Thank you very much.



To go to the 2019 World Summit Schedule page, click here.