Speaker Series #2, Week 3: “Expediting Korean Unification: addressing North Korean human rights issues and the international community’s role” presented by Bae Jung Ho 배정호[Senior Researcher KINU, Chairman of the GK Strategy Research Centre], and defector student ‘Sarah’.
Despite the cold weather, we had a great turn out to last night’s presentation on Unification with Senior Researcher at KINU, Mr Bae Jung Ho and defector student, ‘Sarah’. Mr Bae discussed the importance of the international community taking an active interest in the issue of Korean reunification, particularly with regards to the far-reaching benefits (not only economically but also in terms of security), reunification would have for the East Asian region. Following on from Mr Bae’s presentation, North Korean defector and now student in Seoul, ‘Sarah’, shared her story of escaping North Korea, and her goal to become a human rights lawyer. Read on below for a bullet-point recap of Mr Bae’s presentation:
Unification of the Korean peninsula and its benefits to Northeast Asia
I. Trajectory of Korean peninsula unification: International as well as North-South Korean cooperation
• The Korean peninsula problem is not just a South and North Korean problem but also an international problem. The US, Japan, China, and Russia all have a vested interest in the issue.
• South Korea seeks to achieve reunification in a way that will contribute towards the peace and prosperity of the Northeast Asian region, as well as preserve American, Japanese, Chinese, and Russian national interests.
• The reunification of the Korean peninsula will ultimately be beneficial for neighboring countries.
II. Advantages of Korean reunification
• Liberation from the pains of division
• Restoration of the Korean peoples’ self-esteem
• End of the Cold War remnant in East Asia
• A force for peace and prosperity in East Asia
• Resolution of North Korea’s nuclear problem and a secure environment in Northeast Asia
If the Korean peninsula remains divided:
• US, Japanese, Russian, and South Korean scholars all agree that North Korea will never give up nuclear weapons
• North Korea’s continued increase in nuclear capability
• North Korea’s long distance missile test (2012.12.12), third nuclear test (2013.1.22)
• Plutonium-based (Pu) nuclear bomb => highly enriched uranium-based (HEU) nuclear bomb
• Enhancement of the nuclear weapons: smaller and lighter
⇨ Concern for Northeast Asia’s security environment
⇨ As North Korea continues to reduce the size and weight of the nuclear warheads, the likelihood that these warheads can be mounted on missiles is increased. In such a scenario, the US nuclear deterrent against North Korea may become less effective.
⇨ Cause an incredibly unstable security environment in Northeast Asia
• The domino effect of nuclear proliferation
⇨ In order to overcome limitations to America’s extended nuclear deterrence, South Korea and Japan may ask for increased US nuclear presence in the area.
⇨ Domino effect in which the presence of more nuclear weapons is requested by South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan, may also lead to individual development of nuclear weapons in the case that its security needs are not met.
• Are North Korea’s nuclear facilities safe?
⇨ In the case that there is an accident in North Korea’s nuclear facilities, North Korea, northeast China, and western Japan may be exposed to radioactive materials.
If there is South Korea-led reunification: stable Northeast Asian security environment
• Resolution of the nuclear problem imposed by North Korea
• The reunification of South and North Korea is very unlikely in the case that South Korea does not choose to pursue resolving North Korea’s nuclear issue.
⇨ If South Korea can effectively denuclearize the Korean peninsula, the US and Japan will both support the reunification of the country
• A South Korea-led reunification means denuclearization
⇨ The domino effect phenomenon is avoided.
• South Korea is an NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) member (1975.4)
⇨ A reunified Korea led by South Korea cannot have nuclear weapons.
• NPT structure: With the exception of the five existing nuclear powers (US, Russia, UK, France, China), it is illegal for other countries to have nuclear weapons (Established 1967.1.1)
• Contributes to a more stable security environment in Northeast Asia
• A South Korea-led reunification movement can decisively resolve the nuclear problem posed by North Korea Thus, as a result of the peace established on the Korean peninsula, Northeast Asia can finally work towards becoming a peaceful region.
• Reform and the opening up of North Korea will enable conditions for investment.
• According to South Korea’s experience of industrialization, we can predict that the North Korean economy will genuinely recover.
• It will set up conditions for secure investment in northern China and the Korean peninsula.
• If North and South Korea are connected by a railroad through reunification of the Korean peninsula, it will connect to the Trans-Siberian railroad (TSR), China Railway (TCR), and Mongolian Railway (TMR) and allow economic, social, and cultural exchanges.
• A reunified Korea and three of China’s northeastern provinces will have active economic cooperation with the far eastern part of Russia.
• A reunified Korea will enable the development of Siberia, gas pipeline projects in the Korean peninsula and Russia, and the connection of the Tumen River Basin Development Project promoting economic cooperation in Northeast Asia.
o Participation of Japanese companies.
• The formation of a Northeast Asian economic community will give new vitality and opportunity to the Japanese economy.
o Contributing to a jump in the Japanese economy with new consumption and investment.
• Such economic cooperation will vitalize human and cultural exchanges in the Northeast Asian economic and cultural communities and contribute to the construction of essential electrical infrastructure.
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