Address of H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia; Co-chair, World Summit 2022, to the Summit For Peace on the Korean Peninsula during World Summit 2022 on 13 February 2022.

Excellency heads of state and government,

Honorable Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, co-Founder of the Universal Peace Federation,

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

It has been 72 years since the Korean War started and 69 years since the signing of the armistice agreement between the two Koreas. Throughout all these past decades, peace efforts have been promoted at various levels and on different platforms, unfortunately to no avail. Peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula remain elusive and fragile as previous approaches were not successful. That is why we need to be bolder now and explore innovative ways that can yield positive outcomes.

In my view, peace and security in the Asia Pacific region and the world cannot be decoupled from the peace and security in the Korean Peninsula and vice versa, for the mere reason that our world is so interconnected and intertwined. We need to acknowledge that mutual prosperity and greater interdependence are the foundations of peace and security and that our socio-economic lifelines are bound to coexist through this all-inclusive and open international order, which embraces the two Koreas.

Geographically speaking, the Korean Peninsula is a key gateway to Asia, not just in terms of great civilization, but also in terms of economic opportunities. Rather than viewing it as merely a “buffer zone” in great power politics, it should be appreciated as a bridge of trust and land of opportunities for all. The Korean people are innovative, dynamic and hardworking, and they can contribute greatly to the world’s economy. Once peace prevails, all these potentials are there for the region and the world to grasp.

To this end, the responsibility falls upon the international community to work together to get the two Koreas out of the remnant of the Cold War. We all know that the divided Korean Peninsula is a legacy of the Cold War and Koreans are the victims of great power politics. Unfortunately, great powers selfishly use the peninsula as their buffer zone in their power competition and projection.

To seek peace on the Korean Peninsula, we need to be mindful of the following:

  • First, overcoming 70 years of animosity and distrust will require many years of negotiations and confidence-building measures, and of course a gradual reconciliation process. Similarly, the denuclearization process will have to unfold in phases. Strategic patience, therefore, is of utmost importance.
  • Second, pressure alone would not effectively address the deeply rooted causes of conflict, nor would it resolve decades-long complex issues. A robust and comprehensive diplomatic engagement is a prerequisite. A positive engagement with Pyongyang would reduce the risk of its further isolation, which in turn would lead to a de-escalation of the vicious cycle of military tensions and ultimately a toning down of its nuclear ambitions.
  • Third, building the trust momentum necessitates constant pragmatic engagement from the peace negotiators, who should focus on targeting low-hanging fruit efforts that are less controversial, less sensitive and more practical.

Distinguished delegates, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

The Cambodian people have felt the pain of war as we went through three decades of civil war, instigated mainly by foreign interventions. We, too, are the victims of the Cold War and great power politics. Learning from our past experiences, we can only rely on ourselves to protect our national interests, and to seek peace for our people. National reconciliation must first come from within, with national ownership the determining and defining factor. We have learned that nothing is more valuable than independence and self-determination.

Based on our hard-earned experiences and lessons learnt in peace-building and national reconciliation, I would like to propose the “Two States Toward One Nation: One Peninsula, One People, One Culture” initiative for your consideration. It is not a totally new concept; it is based on the vision and mission of the Universal Peace Federation (UPF).

Why two states? The political and governance systems in North Korea and South Korea are completely different. It is impossible to integrate the two political systems in the foreseeable future. Therefore, we need to accept the fact that these two systems will have to continue to coexist in parallel. Peaceful coexistence between the two political regimes must be encouraged and promoted.

Why one nation? Korea can be divided by land but not people. Korea has a unified bloodline. A Cambodian adage goes like this: “We cannot cut the bloodline; we cannot cut the water”. The people are like water—they cannot be cut. In the same vein, culture is a critical source for peace and reunification. The Korean desire for reunification is based on a long and proud history of unity that saw Korea develop into a culturally and ethnically homogenous country with a deep sense of national identity and unity.

I believe the “Two States Toward One Nation: One Peninsula, One People, One Culture” initiative is practical and achievable because it is aimed at promoting cultural exchanges and people-to-people ties between the two Koreas. It is a low-hanging fruit that we can easily pick. This initiative was inspired by UPF’s mission of promoting shared values, mutual prosperity and interdependence, as well as the shared principle of fostering mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual trust and mutual interest for peace and prosperity (M4P2).

To that effect, I would like to propose some practical steps for your consideration as follows:

  • First, we should transform the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into a safe and open cultural corridor connecting the two peoples. The DMZ can offer platforms for joint cultural performances, art exhibitions and other cultural exchanges.
  • Second, the two Koreas should further cooperate under the framework of UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to create the necessary conditions for dialogue based upon the respect for commonly shared values. The preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO should inspire us, and I quote, “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed”.
  • Third, the two Koreas should work together to advance Korean culture, connect Korean civilization with other civilizations, and jointly develop culture-based tourism and innovation. Food diplomacy, for instance, can be promoted by both Koreas.

To conclude, I call upon leaders from different sectors to give their input on the “Two States Toward One Nation: One Peninsula, One People, One Culture” initiative so that we can translate this concept into practical, achievable and concrete actions. Trust can only be built based on actions, not on empty promises.

While praying for a long lasting peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, I wish to all the distinguished delegates, here present today at this World Summit 2022, good health, happiness and all the success in your respective endeavors.

I truly thank you for your kind attention.

H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia; Co-chair, World Summit 2022

H.E. Samdech Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Royal Government of Cambodia; Co-chair, World Summit 2022


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