by Eric Olsen
Korean National Assembly members, international diplomats, and Korea experts examined geopolitical obstacles and opportunities for reunification of the Korean peninsula arising from the war in Ukraine, intensifying US-China relations over the status of Taiwan and growing global rivalry, and the recent inauguration of Yoon Suk-yeol as president of South Korea during the opening of the International Forum on One Korea in Seoul on August 13, 2022.
The forum, “Free and Unified Korea: A Catalyst for Regional and Global Peace and Development,” was the latest of many expert convenings hosted by the Global Peace Foundation around the world since 2012 to bring focus to the ongoing division of Korea as a global security threat and to the North Korean regime as a rogue dictatorship and human rights violator.
Absent constructive engagement with North Korean officials, the International Forum on One Korea is working to build global consensus for Korean-led peaceful unification as an approach to validate and affirm Korea’s cultural heritage, which transcends the political division, and ultimately disengage the Korean peninsula from Great Power rivalries.
“Since the Korean peninsula has been divided by great powers, the reunification of the Korean peninsula must be accomplished through the agreement and cooperation of the powers under the leadership of Korea,” Hon. Choong-whan Kim, Co-Chair of Action for Korea United and Secretary General of the Parliamentarian’s Society of the Republic of Korea, told the forum.
“Each of them is responsible for the current situation: Japan colonized Korea, the U.S., and the Soviet Union agreed to divide the Korean peninsula during the Cold War, and China supported North Korea in the Korean War, thus solidifying the current armistice situation. . . . If these four powers agree on the unification of the Korean peninsula, the security instability surrounding the Korean peninsula, including the North Korean nuclear issue, can be easily resolved.”
The role of nonaligned nations
Countries “free of political interests in the Korean Peninsula region, such as Indonesia, [can] become ‘honest brokers,’ namely negotiators who are impartial or impartial with certain interests,” said Dr. Musdah Mulia, chairperson of the Indonesian Conference on Religions for Peace.
“The complicated relationship between North and South Korea requires a concrete solution that is more humane, and free from the interests of a big country like the United States.”
Dr. Kriengsak Chareonwongsak, chairman of the Nation-Building Institute in Thailand and a Senior Fellow at Harvard University, added that “ASEAN and Thailand are suitable to play a supporting role in the unification process as both ASEAN and Thailand are very close to the two Koreas.
“A free and unified Korea benefits Thailand and the entire ASEAN region,” Dr. Chareonwongsak said. “ASEAN and Thailand could help establish platforms for all stakeholders to build common ground and a stable external security environment for Korean unification,” he noted, as well as provide financial, infrastructure, and human development support.
India’s former ambassador to Kazakhstan, Sweden, and Latvia Ashok Sajjanhar said India enjoys “excellent relations with ROK, both in the political and strategic as well as economic and commercial spheres. India also maintains an embassy in Pyongyang. India stands ready to play its due part in bringing the two countries together.”
He observed that while the EU integration and German unification models are significantly different from the situation in the Koreas, there are several elements that are common, and the European experiences can be put to good use to expedite the process of Korean reunification.
“The shared heritage of all Koreans transcends the current ideological, political, and national divisions. It is the root to which Koreans in both North and South must be re-connected to provide the vision and energy that can reunify the separated people.”
Presenting a more cautionary analysis, Col. (R) David Maxwell, a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in the United States, said the North is “actively working to subvert the South and its relations with the U.S. and the international community. It is conducting illicit activities around the world from proliferation of weapons to conflict zones to counterfeiting and money laundering to cyber-attacks to drug trafficking. But worst of all it is conducting crimes against humanity on a scale we have not seen since World War II. It is the worst human rights abuser in the modern era.
“The only way we are going to see an end to the nuclear program and military threats as well as the human rights abuses and crimes against humanity being committed against the Korean people living in the north by the mafia-like crime family cult known as the Kim family regime is through achievement of unification and the establishment of a free and unified Korea. One that is secure and stable, non-nuclear, economically vibrant, and unified under a liberal constitutional form of government based on individual liberty, freedom, rule of law, and human rights as determined by the Korean people.”
A shared heritage
Presenting the keynote speech, Dr. Hyun Jin Preston Moon, founder and chairman of the Global Peace Foundation, told participants that “the Korean people today face two major challenges: unifying their divided homeland and rediscovering their Korean identity. The two are intertwined. Once we understand that unification is not just about the dealings of governments but is the coming together of a separated people, then it becomes clear that a strong sense of Korean identity is essential for the Korean people in the South and in the North to be able to reunite.
“Throughout their history Koreans have embraced different faith traditions that have come to this land,” the GPF chairman said. “But our ancestors always digested those traditions and gave them a unique Korean character, rooted in the Hongik Ingan [“living for the greater benefit of all humanity”] tradition.
“This is the shared heritage of all Koreans that transcends the current ideological, political, and national divisions. It is the root to which Koreans in both North and South must be re-connected to provide the vision and energy that can reunify the separated people.
“By 2025, the 80th anniversary of liberation, we will hold public rallies in towns and cities all over the South in support of a free and unified Korea, reminiscent of the Sam Il movement for independence more than a hundred years ago.
“Such a powerful expression of solidarity behind a common vision led by the Korean people instead of any government or political party will allow the South to bypass its hyper partisan divide and let their brethren in the North know that they are not alone, that the future for all Koreans lies in our providential destiny to create a new model nation together.”
Other distinguished speakers as the opening session included Hon. Jong-kul Lee, Chairman of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation and former five-term member of the ROK National Assembly; Hon. Moon-pyo Hong, Member (People Power Party) of the ROK National Assembly; Hon. Sang-min Lee, Member (Democratic Party) of the ROK National Assembly; Nobuo Tanaka, former executive director of the International Energy Agency; and Ambassador Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, chairman of Blue Banner and former Mongolian Ambassador to the United Nations.
The International Forum on One Korea was convened by the Global Peace Foundation, Action for Korea United, Parliamentarian’s Society of the Republic of Korea, Korean Senior Citizens Association, Korean National Police Veterans Association, Federation of Artistic & Cultural Organization of Korea, One Korea Foundation, and Leaders’ Alliance for Korea Unification. It was sponsored by the ROK Ministry of Unification and Peaceful Unification Advisory Council, and in partnership with Action for Korea United Professors Association, Blue Banner, and Alliance for Korea United.
To learn more about Global Peace Foundation work to advance peaceful reunification, visit One Korea Global Campaign towards a Free and Unified Korea | Global Peace Foundation