Q & A¡¯s on the Korean Peninsula Situation
Some Q & A¡¯s on the Korean Peninsula Situation
Why is 2015 important to Koreans?
It is the celebratory 70th anniversary of the end of the World War II and Korea¡¯s liberation from the Japanese colonialism. And yet, sadly, it is also the 70th anniversary of Korea¡¯s division into two occupying zones that led to a tragic war and divided states, with seemingly perpetual animosities and conflicts.
Why is that bad?
Up to ten million Korean family members have been separated by the division -- and only few have seen each other ever since. The ongoing division diverts valuable and needy national resources to military defense (more than 25% of North Korea¡¯s government budget and 15% of South Korea¡¯s government budget) and internal security measures. In only one generation, Korea went through colonialization, division and war, which resulted in a rigid division of Korea and Koreans who were one nation and one people for thousands of years.
Moreover, due to the situation in Korea, the entire Northeast Asia region has become a volatile, conflict-ridden region with heavy militarization and spiraling arms race that threaten world peace.
What are obstacles to ending Korea¡¯s division?
There are many, but first of all, the Korean War has not officially ended, as no peace treaty has been signed to replace the ¡°temporary¡± armistice agreement. Thus both sides of Korea are in constant state of war readiness, with occasional flare-ups that may lead to escalated confrontation.
Moreover, the U.S. maintains substantial troop presence in South Korea, as a remnant of the Korean War and a commitment to deter threat from North Korea, but some see it as a component of a wider U.S. security posture in the Asia-Pacific region that is primarily geared towards countering China¡¯s ambitions, as the reduction of U.S. ground forces and strengthening of air and naval presence in South Korea suggest.
Can¡¯t the U.N do something about the situation?
Ideally, it should, but the U.N.¡¯s hand is tied because the U.N. Command, a vestige of the Korean War, still exists, if only in name only. Attempts to address the ¡°Korea Question¡± at the U.N. failed and both Korean states are now members of the U.N. That leaves South Korea, North Korea, and the U.S. (a de facto signatory to the Korean War Armistice) as the prime stakeholders that can and should tackle and resolve the issue first-hand.
But isn¡¯t there a threat from North Korea?
North Korea¡¯s actions seem incomprehensible, but those may be understood within the context of a multi-nation standoff that espouse arms buildup, military tension, and internal political repression, and where defensive measures may be considered offensive measures to the other side, and vice versa.
What about North Korea¡¯s development of nuclear weapons?
That can also be addressed within the wider context of international security concerns in Northeast Asia, as it is a result of mutual suspicions, missed opportunities at peace-building, and uncontrolled arms race.
Have there been attempts towards peaceful resolution?
Yes, the two sides of Korea have -- in 1972, 1992, 2000 and 2007-- agreed on paths towards reconciliation, cooperation and exchanges, peace-building, and eventual reunification, but these developments has been stymied by changes in administrations and international pressures.
And between North Korea and the U.S.?
Yes, several attempts to address and resolve North Korea¡¯s nuclear weapon development program and its security concerns have failed, as well as attempts at reconciliation such as high-level visits and cultural exchanges between North Korea and the U.S.
Why normalize with North Korea?
During the height of the Cold War, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger suggested that the U.S. and Japan normalize relations with North Korea while China and Soviet Union do the same with South Korea as a step towards resolving the crisis in Korea. Today, South Korea has diplomatic relations with China and Russia, but Japan and the U.S. still have not normalized relations with North Korea. Not doing this isolates North Korea further and reduces opportunities at tension-reduction and mutual confidence-building that can pave a way towards cooperation with resulting mutual benefits.
It will also be beneficial for the U.S., as it will raise its stature in the world as a peacemaker, following normalization with Cuba and settlement with Iran over its nuclear program.
What can be done?
As concerned citizens, we can urge the stakeholders (policymakers) to stay engaged in negotiations aimed at reduction of tensions that will pave a way for a lasting peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula that includes normalization of relations, nuclear disarmament and conventional arms reduction. We can support efforts by NGOs and citizen groups that are engaged in efforts at reconciliation, exchanges and economic cooperation.
A peaceful resolution of the crisis in the Korean Peninsula is in the best interest of all concerned – we can make that happen.
Produced by NAKA (The National Association of Korean Americans, Inc.), 2015
NAKA, founded in 1994, advocates for a peaceful resolution in the Korean Peninsula and empowerment of Korean Americans.
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