The question of the Korean peninsula is a hot topic, especially since North Korea agreed to send a delegation, including high-level political officials, to the Winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang this year. This delegation represents good will between South and North Korea, and sparks a discussion on the potential of a unified Korean peninsula.
This discussion topic was considered at a February 6 event entitled “Peaceful Resolution on the Korean Peninsula: Envisioning Sustainable Peace and Security in Northeast Asia.” The discussion was hosted by the Alliance for Peacebuilding and the Global Peace Foundation who convened a keynote speaker and panel to consider the topic.
The event began with a keynote from Mr. James P. Flynn, President of the Global Peace Foundation who reflected on the One Korea Global Campaign and used the Korean Dream Framework to emphasize his belief that a unified Korean peninsula was possible. He expressed the hope that a shared vision of unity might be seen and acted upon at a March 1, 2019 convening of the two nations.
Following the keynote was a panel moderated by Michael Marshall, Edirot Emeritus of the United Press International, and featuring:
- Inteck Seo – co-chairman of Action for Korea United
- Grace M. Kang – attorney and foreign policy specialist
The panel considered the questions, what steps are necessary to see peace and unification on the Korean peninsula, and what role does the international community play in realizing this goal? Mr. Seo highlighted the work that he was doing with Action for Korea United, and noted that in his experience the divide is not only between North and South Korea, but rather also between different groups in the civil society of South Korea. Seo claimed that before the divide between the North and South could be addressed the civil society in South Korea must be united.
In turn, Ms. Kang focused on the role of legitimacy and the international community in determining the outcome of the Korean peninsula. Kang argued that “legitimacy is the underlying problem that needs to be solved.” Human rights violations are a threat to North Korea’s legitimacy, and Kang believes the United Nations should take a strong stance against these in hopes that the threat of removal from the international community would illicit the end of human rights violations and a willingness to participate more actively in the international community and in negotiations with South Korea.
A question and answer session following the panel raised important questions, especially about the role the international community could play in the peaceful resolution process. Concerns were raised that if the United Nations were to take a hard stance against North Korea then North Korea would simply withdraw fully from the general assembly. Kang explained that this would allow the ICC jurisdiction to address human rights violations in North Korea, although her hope was that this would not be the outcome.
Throughout the event a tone of hope was present as experts and practitioners provided valuable insights into what actions need to be taken to reach the goal of peaceful resolution on the Korean peninsula.