2020-02-22 22:26 KST  
Global Voices Online - The world is talking. Are you listening?
The Future of the Korean Peninsula
South Korean Ambassador to the UN Choi Young-jin Participates in Columbia Seminar
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2006-10-24 07:11 (KST)   
A seminar about the problems of the Korean Peninsula with the Korean Ambassador to the U.N., Choi Young-jin, was held at Columbia University in New York, on Thursday, Oct. 19.(1) Ambassador Choi opened the seminar by presenting what he proposed as a framework in which to understand the current problems facing the peninsula, the primary one of which is how to understand North Korea.

Related Articles
Conceptual Framework for International Relations
The Problem Facing the U.N.

The world, Choi proposed, is divided into countries that are interdependent or isolated. The U.S. is the most interdependent country in the world. He gave North Korea as an example of an isolated country. What is happening in the Korean peninsula, he said, is a microcosm of the problems the world is facing in the 21st century.

OMNI's New Approach to Citizen Journalism
[Opinion] Democracy's Downfall
Technology Can Save Money, Planet
[Opinion] Iran Defends Peaceful 'Right'
Couchsurfing in Gaza
Balancing Work, Life, And Children
More than policy needed to raise birthrates
The European Dream: 2 Children
Happy 10th Birthday to OhmyNews
[Opinion] America Can Be Asia셲 Copilot
There is a North - South divide, and the Korean peninsula is characteristic of this divide, only the characteristics that are represented by countries of the North and South are reversed. The divide is one of "haves" and "have nots." North Korea is an example of the countries of the South, which are countries in economic difficulty. At the heart of the question of North Korea, Choi proposed, is the dilemma of "political survival and economic revival."

North Korea's factories are only running at 20-30 percent of capacity. Electricity production is a problem. North Korea, he explained, cannot survive such economic difficulties. How then is it possible to revive its economy? The only way, Choi explained, was to accept trade. Like Vietnam, North Korea needs to open up its society and accept trade with other countries. According to Choi, the threat for North Korea is an internal threat, the threat of self-imposed isolation.

Choi proposed, however, that North Korea, on its own could not choose to change this situation. That unless a peaceful means could be found to help change the situation, the problem faced by North Korea becomes the problem of the international community.

"How do you manage this complex problem?" he asked. He proposed two different approaches, one that the U.S. was pursuing and one that China was taking. The U.S., he explained, is geographically distant from North Korea and so it would not be affected if there was a clash with North Korea. Thus the U.S. position was to promote "containment with engagement." The U.S. position is that North Korea cannot be accepted as a nuclear state. It advocated sanctions including the interdiction of North Korean cargo suspected of being related to its nuclear program.

What if, however, it was Mexico not North Korea that had become a nuclear state and threatened to sell nuclear technology to other countries? If the country the U.S. was dealing with was geographically closer to the U.S., what would be the U.S. policy then? Would the U.S. accept interdiction of suspected cargo if it could lead to a military clash?

Choi described the second approach, the approach that China was taking. Since China is so close, if a clash happened, the first victim would be China not the U.S. Similarly, South Korea is geographically close to North Korea. China and South Korea have a lot to lose if something happens. That is why China insisted that the sanctions not be military, but only under Article 41 of Chapter 7 of the United Nations Charter. Also China favored that the interdiction of suspected cargo would not be "mandatory" but "as necessary."

The situation, however, Choi explained, is murky. He asked if North Korea knows what it wants. Also for China and South Korea the desire is that North Korea not be a nuclear state. They want co-existence and that the Korean peninsula be a nuclear free peninsula. He also raised the question of whether the other countries who had been involved in the six-party talks had a strategy. No country appeared to have a clear strategy. The situation appeared dangerous because an explosion would affect the whole region.

The program was opened for questions from the people attending the seminar. The first question was about an article in the Oct. 16 issue of the German publication "Der Spiegel." The writer quoted an anonymous source that said that North Korea had asked China to guarantee that if it were attacked, it would retaliate on behalf of North Korea. North Korea would have stopped developing its nuclear weapons if the Chinese had agreed to this request. The question was whether Choi knew anything about this report.

Choi's response was that he didn't know anything about this report but that he didn't think that North Korea saw its major problem as security. His view was that North Korea wanted economic assistance, economic cash.

Professor Samuel Kim, who had introduced the speaker, disagreed that North Korea was not concerned with its national security. Kim referred to an account by Ambassador Charles "Jack" Pritchard. Pritchard said that he was struck by something that Kim Jong Il said to Madeleine Albright about the importance of security to North Korea. When comparing the experience of China and North Korea regarding economic development, Kim Jong Il explained that China had been able to focus its resources on economic development because it didn't face any security threat. North Korea, however, saw the U.S. as threatening its security and so could not focus its efforts on economic development. North Korea felt it was under a U.S. nuclear threat, and had been for the past 50 years, going back to the period of the Korean War.

Responding to a comment that North Korea had not supported coming to an agreement in the 2005 six-party talks, Professor Kim explained that it was the U.S. not North Korea that was the problem. No sooner was the ink dry, the U.S. imposed financial sanctions on North Korea. These sanctions created a financial stranglehold. Even during the talks, it was the U.S. that was the holdout. It took the U.S. a few days to sign the agreement reached during the six-party talks, and it only did so when it was threatened that the fact it was the U.S. which was delaying the signing of the agreement would be made public.

Answering a question about the fact that a significant percentage of the South Korean population sees the U.S. as responsible for the North Korean nuclear test, Choi explained that people in South Korea are divided over how to deal with the situation. The official position of the URI party in South Korea, is that the U.S. is to blame. Many people in South Korea think of North Korea as a brother. Others see the U.S. as an ally and North Korea as an enemy. The framework he gave at the beginning of the seminar, however, is intended to establish that there is a genuine problem and that the U.S. is forced to work within the context of this genuine problem.

Choi was asked whether it would help that the new secretary-general of the United Nations was from South Korea. He answered that he believed it would definitely help as South Korea has an understanding of the need to work with North Korea.

In response to the question whether any country had previously changed from pursuing nuclear ambitions because of sanctions, some examples were given of countries like Brazil and Argentina which responded to packages that included security guarantees and economic incentives. Another comment made by a participant in the seminar was that it was important that South Korea continue its economic relations with North Korea. It was important for North Korea to be able to make a legitimate living exporting legitimate products and not be forced by sanctions or a boycott to turn to military exports.

One of the problems raised during the question period was that North Korea is looking toward the U.S. not South Korea for a way to solve the problems. Criticism of the U.S. was mounting for not being willing to talk with North Korea. The North Korean focus on the U.S. could be seen perhaps as a fatal attraction.

Responding to the characterization of North Korea as having trouble making strategic decisions, Professor Kim expressed his disagreement. He pointed to the decision by North Korea in 1994 to enter into the Agreed Framework with the U.S., and then the decision to launch the missile test, and the test of a nuclear weapon. These were offered as examples that North Korea was quite capable of making what it deemed strategic decisions.

The seminar provided the participants with an opportunity to exchange views and concerns over what is happening in Northeast Asia. The issues were considered with a seriousness and concern that was encouraging. The discussion in the seminar resulted in recognition of North Korea's concern over the threat it perceives from the U.S., both militarily and economically. The actions of the U.S. toward North Korea coupled with the fact that North Korea therefore feels the need to have a way to respond to the hostile acts, results in a tense situation. The nations that share geographic proximity with North Korea find themselves faced with an increasingly unstable situation. The actions of the U.S. and the pressures from the U.S. on the countries that are in geographic proximity to North Korea, have as their result intensified instability rather than the amelioration of the instability.

The seminar demonstrated the importance of serious discussion among those who are concerned for the safety and stability of the Korean Peninsula. Ambassador Choi Young-jin, Professor Samuel Kim, and those who attended the seminar, all contributed to creating an environment where fruitful discussion was welcomed. This is an encouraging sign that with the efforts of concerned people, perhaps the issues involved can be clarified, and the needed action can be taken to support a just resolution of the problems that have contributed to the current crisis.



WEAI Center for Korean Research: Contemporary Korean Affairs Seminar October 19, 2006 from 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm EDT Columbia University Morningside Campus International Affairs Building, Room 1512 The Weatherhead East Asian Institute (WEAI) Center for Korean Research presents a seminar entitled, "Contemporary Korean Affairs Seminar--The Korean Peninsula in the 21st Century," with Ambassador Choi Young-jin, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

Add to :  Add to Del.icio.usDel.icio.us |  Add to Digg this Digg  |  Add to reddit reddit |  Add to Y! MyWeb Y! MyWeb

Ronda Hauben
Netizens Question Cause of Cheonan Tragedy
Michael Werbowski
[Opinion] Democracy's Downfall
Michael Solis
Arizona's Immigration Bill and Korea
Yehonathan Tommer
Assassination in Dubai
[ESL/EFL Podcast] Saying No
Seventeenth in a series of English language lessons from Jennifer Lebedev...
  [ESL/EFL] Talking About Change
  [ESL/ EFL Podcast] Personal Finances
  [ESL/EFL] Buying and Selling
How worried are you about the H1N1 influenza virus?
  Very worried
  Somewhat worried
  Not yet
  Not at all
    * Vote to see the result.   
  copyright 1999 - 2020 ohmynews all rights reserved. internews@ohmynews.com Tel:+82-2-733-5505,5595(ext.125) Fax:+82-2-733-5011,5077