Former Philippine Speaker Jose de Venecia, Jr., issued a ringing call for a comprehensive initiative to resolve the division of the Korean peninsula and provide for the humanitarian needs of the Korean people in a speech at Global Peace Convention in Seoul, South Korea on November 29, 2011.
De Venecia, the Founding Chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP), Founding President of the Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International (CAPDI), and member of Global Peace Foundation’s Global Leadership Council, said that “the distribution of power in the world is fast-changing—particularly in East Asia—and the Korean Peninsula must adapt to these epochal transformations.” The text of the speech was reprinted in BizNews Asia magazine (January 2-9, 2012).
De Venecia told convention delegates from 28 nations that the mainstream parties of the Republic of Korea and the Korean Workers’ Party of the North should draw up a road map toward reunification. He said the Global Peace Foundation, CAPDI, ICAPP, and the newly formed Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council “should network with the leading think-tanks of the U.S., Asia, and Europe to perhaps envision the architecture of Korean confederation and reunification, revive the Kim Dae Jung ‘Sunshine Policy,’ promote a bipartisan approach among the major parties of the South, and draw on South Korea’s proven economic power to help build the economy of the North under an economic confederation of Korean Unity.”
Emphasizing the value of parliamentary-level political exchanges to complement ongoing diplomatic efforts, De Venecia urged the Asian, European, and U.S. parliaments to send delegations to meet North Korea legislators. Ministers of Agriculture and Tourism might also interact with their North Korean counterparts to study the recurring causes of famine in the North and to develop tourism and North Korea’s hydrocarbons, mining, and hydro-electric potential as a means of economic growth, he said. “We need to develop pragmatic and creative methods that will rebuild North-South relations, without allowing ideological differences to get in the way.”
The former Philippine Speaker said his interest in such an outcome is personal as well as professional. De Venecia visited Pyongyang in 1990 as acting Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations in an informal effort to open diplomatic relations with North Korea.
“Despite his forbidding reputation, I found Kim Il Sung widely and keenly interested in the outside world,” de Venecia observed; “our appointment of ten minutes stretched to more than one hour. When I inquired naively into the possibility of another war on the Peninsula, he dismissed the liability outright. ‘Conflict would be foolish,’ he said emphatically, ‘it would only cause mutual destruction in both North and South Korea that neither side could afford to suffer.’ When the sounds of war threaten in the Korean Peninsula, I remember those words of practical wisdom from the late Kim Il Sung.”
Peace and Reconciliation Council
In his wide-ranging speech, the former speaker reported on the recent formation of the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council to assist and advise governments in the aftermath of internal conflicts resulting from citizens asserting their political and human rights, and to facilitate the transition to democracy and the return to popular governance.
“Our focus should be on how we can serve as a bridge between North and South Korea. We at the Global Peace Foundation, ICAPP and CAPDI…stand against political extremism in every form.”
“Crimes committed during internal conflicts must be seen truthfully and in whole,” de Venecia declared. “Justice must be done; society’s wounds must be healed; reforms must begin without new blood debts being incurred and without impairing national society’s ability to face the future united, serene, at peace with itself. It is this constructive spirit our Council will seek to establish and promote.”
The Philippines leader noted that internal conflicts set off by ethnic, religious and cultural schisms are ongoing in southern Thailand, in Mindanao in the Philippines, in parts of East Indonesia, and in Sri Lanka. Islamist radicalism and factionalism in Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq, in the light of the announced U.S. withdrawal, also are theaters where the Council could advance constructive approaches to the resolution of conflict.
“Through CAPDI and ICAPP, we have been encouraging Track Two diplomacy efforts at conciliating contending political parties—starting with those in Nepal and in Kashmir, all of whom are ICAPP charter members. Let me add that in more than ten years of conflict in Nepal, the Global Peace Foundation under Dr. Hyun Jin Moon helped mobilize the forces of civil society and inter-faith organizations in that Himalayan Hindu state of 23 million to contribute to dialogue and the process of peace and reconciliation, as well as in Kenya, Paraguay, and Mongolia.”
De Venecia suggested that 2012, the birth centenary of President Kim Il Sung, can be the occasion for the beginnings of peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.“Our focus should be on how we can serve as a bridge between North and South Korea. We at the Global Peace Foundation, ICAPP and CAPDI…stand against political extremism in every form. We seek reconciliation in Asia’s conflict zones—from the Koreas to the Taiwan Straits, from the Spratlys to the Paracels to the Senkaku Straits, from Mindanao through Southern Thailand to Nepal, from Kashmir and Afghanistan to Iraq and Palestine, and from Chechnya to the Caucusus.
The Asian Development Bank holds out the hope that the twenty-first century will be the ‘Asian Century.’ But our internal conflicts – if they should continue – can frustrate this hope. So our greatest need is for our entire Continent to rise above its conflicts. And it is the hope that the Global Peace Foundation and our networks for peace—together—perhaps even in the most modest way can help move Asia toward this goal that animates us all, for at the Foundation, we have a simple, uncomplicated central article of faith: We belong to one human family under God.”