The webinar, held on November 27th, 2020, was part of a series of programs initiated by UPF Europe to mark the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, on questions such as: Is it possible to reconsider a rapprochement between North and South Korea, 70 years after the start of the Korean War? Could this lead to reunification? Over the past few years, we have seen glimmers of hope, yet every time this happens the situation quickly reverts back into deadlock.
The moderator, Chantal Chételat Komagata, started the program with a video focusing on the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War and containing excerpts from the third online Rally of Hope, which was organized by UPF on November 22nd in order to promote the peaceful reunification of Korea and to honour Korean War veterans.
The first speaker, Dr. Marc Vogelaar started proceedings by stating how he favours pragmatic solutions to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula, a catastrophe which has lasted for more than two generations. “Every nation has the right to defend itself,” he continued.
North Korea does not want to give up its nuclear weapons, while the international community wants North Korea to re-join the Non-Proliferation Treaty. A peace treaty should officially end the Korean War and recognize the integrity of North Korea’s territory. Massive and unrestricted economic assistance needs to be offered. The North Korean crisis is, above all, a problem of the North Korean population, which suffers under repression and international sanctions. Steps should be taken by the major stakeholders, especially China and Russia. Down the road, contributions from South Korea, Japan and the European Union would be indispensable to corroborate the peace process. “North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. should be offered a package in the spirit of the co-founders of UPF, who went to North Korea some 30 years ago to engage Kim’s grandfather, [the] former North Korean leader, Kim Il Sung,” he concluded.
After that, Professor Glyn Ford, who has visited North Korea about 50 times since 1997 as both a politician and activist, said: “The nuclear problem needs to be solved. Even though North Korea spends 25% of its GDP on armament, it cannot compete with South Korea, Japan or the United States and, therefore, would prefer not to give up its nuclear weapons, which are meant to be a deterrent.” He explained that as North Korea had a serious shortage of energy, during the 1990s, it was very interested in building two light-water reactors to supply energy. The country is also short of labour, because hundreds of thousands of men serve in the armed forces. Nuclear weapons would allow thousands of them to be moved from the armed forces into industry. North Korea also will want compensation for its investment in the nuclear program.
Professor Ford ended his talk by emphasising that peacebuilding on the Korean Peninsula is a long-term program, which requires mutual trust to be built. He also highlighted how we should not strive for a regime change, but rather encourage North Korea to change its regime.
|Click here for a transcription of Prof. Glyn Ford's Intervention|
Dr. Claude Béglé, through the use of a PowerPoint presentation, shared his perspective on North Korea. He said: “Many Europeans find it difficult to believe that North Korea is more normal than the media want to them to believe." He said that it obviously is a dictatorship, where no dissent is allowed, and human rights are trampled on, that North Korea has the fourth biggest army in the world, initially needed for self-defence, but now used for provocation. Kim Jong Un is very much aware of the necessity to change the country and to join the international community. The question is how North Korea, being a buffer between the United States and its allies on one side, and China and Russia on the other side, can do this.
Showing pictures, he testified that the country is not on its knees and although twenty million people live in poverty, probably 5 million belong to the lower and middle class and live a relatively ‘normal’ life. Because of the Juche ideology and many decades of embargoes, the North Koreans have invented ways to produce by themselves and some pictures showed shops full of colourful items. He emphasized that much attention is given to education, with a priority to science and technology and that both in North and South Koreans are hardworking people, who wish to build a learned economy and society. He concluded by saying that military industry is giving way to light industry and investment in the field of [international] tourism.”
|(See below Dr. Béglé's Power Point Presentation.)|
The final speaker was Mr. Yoshihiro Yamazaki. He said that since World War II, West European nations have managed to overcome a painful past. Moreover, they have consolidated their bonds under the European Union’s noble values, which the former communist nations of Eastern Europe have sought to join. Lessons can be learned from Germany’s reunification. Russia, a natural meeting point for European and Oriental values, would be able to deploy its development plans, which include a railway system, gas pipelines and an electricity grid, once there is peace on the Korean Peninsula. UPF’s founders, Dr. and Mrs. Moon, although committed anti-communists, were cordially invited by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 and by North Korea’s Kim Il Sung the next year. They advocate and practice true love and living for the sake of others as the solution to all conflict. Their example has guided UPF since its establishment in 2005 to foster trust among different peoples, faiths and nations, calling for interdependence, co-prosperity and universal values.
|Click here for the text of Mr. Yoshihiro Yamazaki's intervention|
To a question about the economy, Dr. Béglé said that North Korea is already heading in the same direction as China, which is helping North Korea a lot, but not [as] openly so as to not offend the United States. North Korea is looking at China and Vietnam, which have not given up their communist ideology, but have opened their economies to the world at different levels.
To another question, Dr. Vogelaar admitted that “The next president would not develop a policy for North Korea from day one, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and other challenges, unless there was military provocation from the Korean side.”
One question to Professor Ford came from Russia about the aggressive approach by Western nations about North Korea’s disarmament. He said that the North Koreans didn’t believe in unification in the foreseeable future and, thus, their economy would have the time to catch up with that of South Korea, which would allow them to relate to their neighbour without the fear of being assimilated by the South.