|Global Peace Foundation (GPF) Chairman Moon Hyun-jin speaks in a plenary session of the International Forum on One Korea in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Nov. 14. / Courtesy of GPF|
By Kim Hyo-jin
WASHINGTON, D.C. ― Under the leadership of U.S. President Donald Trump, the two Koreas have a better chance for reunification, activists and Korea watchers said Wednesday.
Their view, presented at the International Forum for One Korea held on Nov. 14 to 15 at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, and Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, is an assessment of the escalating tensions on the Korean Peninsula amid the war of words between North Korean and U.S. leaders.
They pointed out that Trump has put the peninsula high on the United States' foreign policy agenda, unlike the previous Barack Obama administration whose approach of strategic patience had led to the U.S.'s inaction; they said the attention Trump shed light on advocates of the reunification of the two Koreas, who are seeking larger support for their campaign.
"With the North's development of nuclear weapons and, now, its delivery systems positions to strike the U.S. and its territories, the current (U.S.) administration is making the Korean crisis the centerpiece of its foreign policy (agenda)," civic group Global Peace Foundation Chairman Moon Hyun-jin said during a keynote speech.
Edwin Feulner, founder and president of the Heritage Foundation, also pointed out that the atmosphere for a South Korea-led reunification is being created, noting Trump's emphasis on building a free Korean Peninsula devoid of nuclear threats from North Korea during his speech at the National Assembly.
"The great focus of the global political community is directed at this problem. It's hot, and components of the long-standing problem are changing fast," William Parker, chief operating officer of the EastWest Institute, concurred. "And that means this is a unique opportunity for a meaningful change that simply could not have happened on your other leadership than ours and then also of yours."
|William Parker speaks to The Korea Times during an interview in the Dirksen Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, Nov. 14. / Courtesy of GPF|
During the two-day forum sponsored by the U.S.-based think tank EastWest Institute and GPF, participants, which range from scholars to activists, voiced that establishing a "peace approach" on the peninsula through diplomatic measures is urgently needed to assuage the current security concerns.
In such a diplomatic process, Parker explained that the United States should engage in direct talks with the Kim Jong-un regime, avoiding a third-party mediator.
"This is not intended to recognize North Korea as a nation with significant capabilities but rather to recognize that we need to communicate in order to ease tensions and hostilities," he said.
Alexander Zhebin, director of the Center for Korean Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, put much weight on the role of inter-Korean dialogues in overcoming the suspended multilateral negotiating process on the North's nuclear issue.
"The best option for Koreans would be to resume working on the implementation of the bilateral agreements and understanding between South and North Korea at the various talks and contacts during the several previous decades, including those agreed upon at the historic inter-Korean summits of 2000 and 2007," he said.
Empowering change from inside North Korea
Meanwhile, Greg Scarlatoiu, executive director of the U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea, underlined the need to empower the North Korean people through information campaigns to realize reunification, saying change can come only from the inside.
"The only ones who can bring change to North Korea are its very people. What the outside world can do to enact that change is to step up information campaigns delivered through vehicles including radio broadcasting, mobile media storage devices, and even drones," he said during his speech.
He added this means delivering basic stories about their own abysmal human rights situation, their corrupt leadership, and the outside world, in particular, the democratic economic powerhouse South Korea and the downfall of communist despots.
"So they can understand that there are different paths to transformation, including peaceful transformation scenarios," he said.
|Kenneth Bae speaks to The Korea Times during an interview at President Lincoln's cottage in Washington D.C., Nov.14. / Courtesy of GPF|
Kenneth Bae, president of Nehemia Global Initiative, chimed in, saying civic society should take initiative in this process.
Bae, who was once detained in a North Korean labor camp, is now at the frontlines of the reunification movement. "While witnessing the dismal lives of North Koreans inside the country, I felt strongly about the value of freedom and the importance of the capability of the state leader," he said.
He plans to start radio broadcasting from South Korea to the North next year.
"It will aim to inform North Koreans about the outside world and the fact that people out there actually care about them," he said. "Helping North Koreans open their minds to the outside world is critical to prepare for a unified Korea."
The activist called for the U.S. government to allow North Korean refugees captured in China to choose a third country to enter into its territory, noting that none had been accepted under the Trump administration.
"U.S. politicians should carry out a policy of separating (the North Korean people from the North Korean regime). Accepting North Korean refugees is the best way to assure the remaining citizens in the country that we will embrace them," he said.
The international forum, which discussed ways of better dealing with the North Korean missile and nuclear threats and identify political and civic measures to facilitate peaceful reunification on the Korean Peninsula, will be followed by another one to be held in Seoul on Dec. 7-8.