【 Special Lecture 2 】
Implications and Lessons of June 15 Inter-Korean Summit
former Unification Minister
Inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation is in crisis, which came hard only at the end of a half-century old Cold War ridden with distrust and confrontation. I can not but feel sad and perplexed to commemorate the 9th anniversary of June 15 inter-Korean summit amid currently raised tensions and escalated crisis. Nevertheless we gathered here to ruminate over the historic implications of the June 15 Joint Declaration that lit up the road ahead of the Korean people and to guard its important spirit.
[Background of the South-North Summit]
The Kim Dae-jung government (hereinafter "People's government") inherited the financial crisis and the frozen South-North relationship. The situation got worse as security crisis was added. There was an ill-grounded suspicion that North Korea had underground nuclear facilities in Keunchang-ri. The tension was heightened in the Korean peninsula as American hardliners argued for surgical strikes on North Korea after Pyongyang's launch of Daepodong1 missile.
In his inaugural address, President Kim Dae-jung offered a proposal to have the inter-Korean summit, and put the Sunshine Policy in action with patience and consistency. Adopting the principle of segregating politics and economy, the government approached North Korea with economic agenda, while Hyundai founder Jung Joo-young pushed forward with the Mt. Geungang tourism project. The project helped relieve tensions between two Koreas and find way out of the economic difficulties of South Korea by improving Korea's national credibility in the international community. Also the project was effective in thawing the frozen inter-Korean relationship.
In the mean time, the People's government communicated the following messages to the US administration. "North's nuclear and missile issue is the byproduct of the hostility between the US and North Korea. Pressure and containment can't effectively stop North Korea. We have to create a safe security environment that does not required nuclear arms and establish mutual trust. With an attitude of seeing the wood for the trees, we have to take the give and take approach to matters concerning North Korea. With the fundamental and comprehensive approach aiming at ending the Cold War on the Korean peninsula once and for all, the US should improve the bilateral relationship with North Korea and settle peace on the peninsula." The Clinton administration accepted our proposal and embarked on "Peace process on the Korean peninsula" jointly with Seoul. Along with the efforts for improvement of inter-Korean relationship, America and Japan began the endeavor to improve their relationship with North Korea.
Against this backdrop, the historic inter-Korean summit became a reality. President Kim Dae-jung succeeded in turning a new chapter in the Korean history through the epoch-making event.
[Result of the summit]
Running the risks of visiting the literally uncharted territory, President Kim reached the very heart of North Korea and had meetings with Chairman Kim Jong-il during his Pyongyang stay for two nights and three days. In those meetings, President Kim exchanged candid opinions and went through consultations with Chairman Kim Jong-il. His prudent and bold endeavor finally bore fruit in the form of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration.
The first agenda on the table for the two leaders was peace on the Korean peninsula and unification. Agreeing that war would be self-destructive for the whole nation, they pledged non-aggression for each other. In recognition of the understanding that the whole Korea could be better off when Pyongyang and Washington end enmity, both agreed to make consorted efforts toward that direction. Since then, the missile negotiations had taken place between America and North Korea. What happened next were State Secretary Albright's visit to Pyongyang and initiation of the preparation process for the US-North Korea summit. These are still fresh in our memory.
The matter of unification has always been intertwined with improvement and development of the inter-Korean relationship. If one insists on unification by force or absorption, improvement in South-North relationship can not be expected. The two top leaders shared an understanding that unification is a process as well as an objective, and agreed that unification should be achieved in a gradual and phased manner based on the principles of self-reliance and peace. That is, the South and North, before achieving de jure unification, decided to move towards the state of "de facto unification", where two sides exchanges and cooperates in various fronts. In order to jointly manage and facilitate the long process leading to peace and unification, the two leaders also agreed that "South-North Confederation" was needed as a cooperation and facilitation body.
Based on the understanding that confidence building was the most urgent task and would be achieved only through actions, not words, the two leaders decided to promote multi-dimensional exchanges and cooperation to build mutual trust.
Before the presidential visit to Pyongyang, the majority of Koreans in the South held rather a pessimistic view that the inter-Korean summit would carry its intrinsic value for itself, but be hardly meaningful to a degree, where it could result in any significant outcome. However, with great results coming out of the summit, Koreans turned in favor of the government's endeavor with the absolute support rate of 95%. Many countries including America and China highly recognized the outcomes of the South-North summit. The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution in welcoming and supporting the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration.
[Implications and lessons of the Joint Declaration]
Largely there are four points.
First, June 15 Joint Declaration lit up the road to peace and unification for Korean people. Peaceful unification is a goal that we have to achieve. It will not come from the outside or with our hands down. It is in effect a "process," by which the South and the North should work together and take all the necessary steps through reconciliation and cooperation. This agreement is in compliance with the Constitution of Republic of Korea that stipulates a "peaceful unification", and the "Unification through National Community" formula that is crafted in 1989 reflecting collective wishes of all Koreans. We have to guard against the argument that South Korea should come up with a new unification formula, which overthrow the idea of "unification as a process." If zero-sum game is pursued without well-defined unification philosophy, peace and unification will walk away and tension will rise, leaving the region at the risk of conflict.
Secondly, the June 15 Joint Declaration is action-oriented. The major driving force for improvement of the inter-Korea relationship was from implementation of the five agreed focus projects.
The Peace Corridor was established, linking the main artery of the Korean peninsular of railroads and inland roads. The Gaesung Industrial Complex was constructed to pursue common interest essentially with combination of capital and technology from the South and labor forces and lands from the North. Over 100 companies in the Complex hired 40,000 North Korean workers. 1.93 million people travelled Mt. Geumgang. 20,000 people of 4,000 families found their separated family members. 550,000 people cross-visited the South and the North for economic, social and cultural exchanges. More than 240 talks between South and North authorities were held. These were a significant beginning by any measure.
On the contrary, since the incumbent government took office, all cooperative projects have come to a halt but the Gaesung Industrial Complex, which barely maintains its slander existence. It is truly worrisome and troubling to see the hard-earned mutual trust break down. Things should be back on track as soon as possible.
Thirdly, the Joint Declaration opened a new era of reconciliation and cooperation, marking the end of a half-century old distrust and confrontation. As the agreed terms of the declaration were put into action, animosity between two Koreas began fading away with eased tension. With growing Korean people's communality, mutual trust began to bud.
But the current government has been failing to take a trustworthy attitude to the Northern request to "acknowledge and implement the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration which Seoul and Pyongyang signed for cooperation," and win favorable support from Pyongyang as a result. It is deeply regretable. Rather than regressing to the era of distrust and confrontation, the Seoul government should respect and succeed the sprit of the Joint Declaration, and steer the policy direction back to the road of reconciliation and cooperation.
Fourthly, the June 15 Joint Declaration enhanced our self-confidence that we can address National issues on our own, no longer being left at the mercy of outside forces, and also elevated the Korean people's esteem.
As opposed to the belief that an amicable US-Korea alliance would ensure resolution of the inter-Korean issues without much efforts from our side, we proved that when the direct stakeholders of the South and the North in the inter-Korean matters reached an agreement, we could earn international support and cooperation including that of the US, and show that we could shape our own destiny.
Intra-Korean cooperation and international cooperation are not contradictory, but complementary. It is time for us to gather wisdom to address the denuclearization issue with international cooperation and the national peninsula issue with inter-Korean cooperation in parallel.
It is time for us to build a proactive peace directed towards unification by guarding the spirit of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration, staying away from a passive peace that fixates the state of division. It is time for us to activate economic cooperation to form an economic community, while controlling and reducing arms, whereby establishing the South-North Confederation to realize the de-facto unification.
To this end, Seoul will have to officially announce its compliance with the Joint Declaration, immediately resume the Geumgangsan tourism business that Seoul put on hold, provide humanitarian aids, and take measures to boost the Gaesung Industrial Complex. The government should find ways to ease tensions and improve the inter-Korean relations not by lip service but by sincere dialogue and deeds. For its part, North Korea should stop speaking ill of South Korea and military threats, and come out for dialogue and negotiations in search for co-existence and co-prosperity.
Only when animosity between the US and North Korea dies down so that their relationship is normalized, North Korean nuclear and missile issues will be solved, and the peace regime will be settled on the Korean peninsula. The last two decades proved that pressure and containments were not effective, but just backfired. The Korean government should be able to stand at the forefront of ending the Cold War and settling down peace on the Korean peninsula by convincing the Obama administration that it has to come out for fundamental and comprehensive resolutions to Korean issues just like the past Korean government did for the Clinton administration.
Last but not least, let me wish that the 10th anniversary of the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration can be hosted by both South and North Koreas with much celebration. In order to make that wish come true, we must not spare any efforts for betterment of the inter-Korean relationship.