A free and unified Korea will not only be a key to solving the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsula but also a catalyst for sustainable Northeast Asia regional peace and development said a panel of international experts at a forum convened on October 25.
The opening session of the three-day “Mongolian Forum on Northeast Asian Peaceful Development and Korean Unification,” hosted virtually, was the latest in a series of forums convened in Ulaanbaatar underscoring Mongolia’s significant role in the region as an emerging democracy and key non-aligned state with friendly relations with all neighboring nations, including North and South Korea, Russia, and the People’s Republic of China.
“Mongolia has been actively promoting an initiative to strengthen trust and establish a dialogue mechanism for security and developing mutually beneficial cooperation between northeast Asian nations,” said Mr. Odbayar Erdenetsogt, foreign policy advisor for the President of Mongolia. “In doing so Mongolia is guided by the principles of representing and respecting the opinion of all stakeholders rather than favoring one side’s interest over another.”
As a country that transitioned into market economy and democracy, Mongolia benefitted from stability in the region, said Hon. Tsogtbaatar Damdiny, a member of Mongolia’s Parliament and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs. He said Mongolia views it “as our responsibility to engage with all the countries in the region, especially on the Korean peninsula,” to promote stability and predictability.
Surrounded by nuclear-armed states, Mongolia “supports a strong regime of nuclear non-proliferation,” Damdiny added. “When Mongolia declared its territory as a nuclear weapon-free zone (NWFZ) this was not just a declaration. We wanted this ideal to expand beyond our territory.” To the extent that NWFZ’s are embraced by neighboring states, Damdiny said, security in the region will be strengthened.
Former Mongolian President Ochirbat Punsalmaagiin, the first democratically elected president of Mongolia and Head of Mongolian Forum for Korean Unification, noted the intricacies of politics, security, economics, and other social issues that complicate a consensus on reunification.
“Hard power policy didn’t bring a good outcome in making the peninsula a nuclear-weapon-free zone,” the former president said. “Hence, I suggest a new way that combines economics with social issues aside from political dialogue. In other words, it means we should bring together the hard power and the soft power.” He proposed easing economic sanctions as a condition for economic and social cooperation between North and South Korea, saying only close collaboration and relationships can create trust and that a railway network is in the shared interest of the two Koreas.
Recalling the ideological roots of the twentieth century World Wars and Cold War, Dr. Joo Sung Kim, former President of Korea National University of Education, said the conflict between the U.S. and the PRC is also a rivalry between different political civilizations.
“If there comes a war in the Far East it must be the last duty of liberal democracy to fight against communist totalitarianism,” Kim said, “Now, the Korea unification project must be approached under this perspective.”
The strategy for Korean unification “in the context of a hegemonic rivalry must be cautious,” Kim said. “The first step is to consolidate solidarity with neighboring liberal democratic states such as Mongolia…The national power of Mongolia is crucial for Korean unification in the future. Korea must help Mongolia to be strong enough, economically and politically, to survive the pressures of two neighboring superpowers.”
The lessons of German unification were also important to bear in mind in relation to strategies for Korean reunification, according to Dr. Hyun-ik Hong, Chancellor of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy.
West Germany implemented “policies of reconciliation, exchanges, and cooperation with East Germany in a consistent manner, from the time of the progressive Brandt government up to the last Kohl conservative government that achieved unification,” Hong said.
He thus urged the next South Korean government to “re-implement its North-Korean policies of reconciliation and cooperation, of peace and prosperity, regardless of the government’s ideological orientation.”
Hong also recognized the critical importance of overcoming the opposition of the Soviet Union for German reunification. Korean reunification and the ROK-U.S. alliance “should be characterized neither as anti-China nor as anti-Russia, so that China and Russia both can send a green light for Korean unification.”
Lastly, although South and North Korea had never invaded neighboring countries, their full support for Korean unification should come with assurances that a unified Korea will only contribute to peace and common prosperity, Hong said.
China and U.S. interests
“A nuclear-free and peaceful Korean peninsula is in line with the interests of Korea, China, and other stakeholders,” said Dr. Mabel Miao, the founder, and Secretary-General of Center for China and Globalization. “The Korean peninsula is strategically crucial to its neighboring countries. It serves as a bridge connecting Asia and Europe and a gateway to the West Pacific. A peaceful and prosperous Korea is key for the future development of Northeast Asia.
“Moreover, an integrated Korean peninsula would finally bridge the Pacific and the Atlantic, consequently boosting the economies along the north Eurasian continent. Imagining that a cargo train starts its trip from Osaka, then traveling through Seoul and Pyongyang, arriving in Brussels in three weeks, saving two weeks more than sea tours—the vision is absolutely exciting.”
Mr. Gregory May, Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Embassy in Mongolia, agreed that Mongolia has played a constructive role in seeking peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. “The Biden administration places great importance on solving the challenges presented by the DPRK by working with allies and partners, especially those in the region, such as Mongolia,” May observed. “We will also continue to work with China and Russia on these issues. They have an important role to play in ensuring UN sanctions are effectively implemented and in encouraging the DPRK to engage seriously.”
North Carolina U.S. Congressman G.K. Butterfield warned that North Korea is in control of nuclear and ballistic missiles that not only threaten Korea and its neighbors but also the west, including the United States. “I agree with President Biden, who affirmed his commitment to keep pressing toward a denuclearized North Korea and a unified Korean peninsula. We must all keep pressing toward that goal.”
Denuclearization and clean energy
Dr. Nobuo Tanaka, former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Chair of the Innovation for Cool Earth Forum, discussed the future of energy transformation in Northeast Asia and proposed concrete steps toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
“If North Korea gives up its nuclear weapons, I am proposing to our government to offer the purchase of North Korean plutonium. By doing so, our nuclear power can be used to reduce the weapons in North Korea and South Korea by burning their enriched uranium. So together with Korea, Japan, and the United States can contribute to the denuclearization of North Korea.”
He said nuclear materials also can be used to produce hydrogen and this hydrogen can be put into the hydrogen pipeline network. I think there are plenty of technologies and opportunities for Northeast Asia to work together to create the Clean Energy platform for the future.”
The three-day forum is convened by Blue Banner, Global Peace Foundation, One Korea Foundation, Action for Korea United, and the Mongolian Forum for Korean Unification. Session I was moderated by Ambassador Jargalsaikhan Enkhsaikhan, Chairman of Blue Banner and former Mongolian Ambassador to UN. Opening remarks were given by Mr. James Flynn, International President, Global Peace Foundation; Dr. Jai-poong Ryu, Founder and President of One Korea Foundation; and Mr. Inteck Seo, Co-Chair of Action for Korea United.
Scholars, policy advisors, and political officials convene at additional forums on October 26 and 27 to examine Northeast Asia economic integration, regional development in a post-Covid world, prospects for peaceful Korean unification, proposals for a Northeast Asia nuclear-weapons-free zone, and the role of youth leadership in regional peace.
The Global Peace Foundation builds international support for a free and unified Korea as an urgent not a distant goal. Such a Korea would be nuclear-free and uphold freedom, democratic values, rule of law, and human rights, based on the shared identity and cultural heritage of the Korean people. The “Korean Dream” approach, predicated on the ideals embodied in the ancient Korean ethos of Hongik Ingan (living for the greater benefit of all humanity), can serve as a guiding framework for building this new nation which can be a catalyst for regional and global peace and development. GPF advances this agenda using a collaborative and comprehensive approach with focused attention on critical issue areas, including peace and security, human rights and governance, and economic development.
For more information on an ongoing project to advance peaceful reunification visit One Korea Global Campaign towards a Free and Unified Korea | Global Peace Foundation.