How Civil Society can Contribute to a Free and Unified Korea

Kazuhiro Handa
March 28, 2023

Col. David Maxwell is a Senior Fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a Senior Fellow of the Global Peace Foundation (GPF). He was invited by GPF Japan to present a webinar on the importance of a free and unified Korea to the international community on February 26, 2023.

Global Peace Foundation supports the peaceful reunification of the Korean peninsula as vital to the safety, security, and prosperity of the surrounding region.

Col. Maxwell stated that although there is fear of the economic strains unification will bring to the South, unification is inevitable. He listed the possible scenarios leading up to unification, with the foremost being war, which would first bring another wave of human devastation to the peninsula. He described other paths, including regime collapse—which could also lead to war as a last-ditch effort to stay in power—and the emergence of new leadership within the North, both of which would lead to one Korea. He concluded with the most desirable scenario: peaceful unification.

In his presentation, Col. Maxwell determined that it is therefore essential to plan for unification, no matter the scenario. This process would need to consider the integration of Korea’s two economies, two militaries, two cultures, and two political systems.

Understanding the possible paths to unification and the security threats they pose, the logical question is what average citizens can do to support peaceful unification. Firstly, it is important that citizens and the international community advocates for a free and unified Korea and the benefits it would bring, such as peace and prosperity. People are already getting involved in groups like the One Korea Global Campaign and Action for Korea United, which are supported by thousands of organizations and civil society.

Col. Maxwell advocates that an effective influence campaign can help change the regime’s behavior and decision making, or even cause the North Korean people to effect change on their own through the information transmitted to them. He shared how Voice of America and Radio Free Asia are doing their part in disseminating information to North Korea, and that defectors use balloons to send information. He also explained how South Korean dramas are often passed on flash drives and played on video players, where the Koreans in the North can have their eyes opened to the different cultures of not only the South, but of other countries.

Whatever method ordinary citizens choose to support a free and unified Korea, Maxwell believes the support for unification from outside Korea will increase the confidence of the South Korean people to work towards unification.

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