Why Asia Needs a European Vision of Peace
Political feud between Japan and Korea
For the past decade or so, Japan and the Republic of Korea, that is South Korea, have been entangled in an ever-widening political feud. With the new government in Japan and diplomatic opportunities emerging around the Tokyo Olympics, there is talk about an improvement of a sort. Putting political details aside, this sorry state of affairs has convinced me that Japan and South Korea have not helped East Asia achieve what West Europe has accomplished in the past 75 years.
Following World War II, West European nations toiled to reconcile with one another out of the painful past. They have defended themselves under the NATO alliance, consolidating their bonds under the European Union’s noble values. Naturally, the former communist nations of East Europe and the Balkans have sought to join in. This picture of great advancement in Europe is a far cry from East Asia, where the two leading nations are mired in bitter friction with no union of free nations in sight, while Europe has witnessed the dismantling of the Cold War regime.
East Asia’s lack of common values
Why this stark discrepancy between Europe and East Asia? In my humble view, modern Europe persisted with the shared values, which were established through centuries of religious, national and ideological struggles. Japan and Korea could not deeply implant these values so as to overcome their national sentiments and interests. Thus, Japan in general did not clearly acknowledge South Korea’s regional role in defending the free society. Likewise, South Korea is still tied up in a 'south-south conflict’ of ideas between left-leaning liberals and right-wing conservatives.
What Europe could contribute?
Therefore, definitely Japan needs to support freedom-seeking South Korea. Besides, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan need to collaborate for a union of freedom-loving nations in East Asia and beyond. Here lies the vital role of European encouragement, if not engagement, as a harbinger of such a union of sovereign states based on the distinctive values of freedom, human rights and the rule of law.
Another instructive European case in point is Germany, this time in relation to the Korean peninsula. When East Germany sought for a union, West Germany had a distinctive edge in military strength, a vibrant economy and diverse soft powers of freedom and opportunities. Such clear advantages need to be manifested by South Korea, as it will have to be engaged in tumultuous dealings across the 38th parallel. Japan, and other freedom-seeking nations need to consider the parallel as their own line, just like the Berlin Wall was viewed in those days.
Russia’s location makes it a natural meeting point for European and Oriental values, a place that permits both interaction and exchange, leading to transformation and reform in Europe and Asia, as well as Russia itself. A Russian expert on Korean affairs said that Russia has nothing to lose from a stable and peaceful Korean peninsula. He reasoned that, first, it would eliminate tension beyond Russia’s eastern borders and, second, it would finally open the way to the implementation of eastern Russia’s development plans through the Korean peninsula, plans which include a railway system, gas pipelines and an electricity grid.
Nuclear deterrent as a system of distrust
As for denuclearization, North Korea was virtually the only nation in East Asia without a reliable nuclear umbrella. Facing Russia and China, non-nuclear Japan and South Korea have been under America’s nuclear shield. Thus, Pyongyang’s leaders will never give up their nuclear status until they find dependable guarantors, especially to safeguard their puritanical nationalism. Incidentally, the Islamic Republic of Iran is taking a similar course as it is bound to defend its Islamic puritanism. After all, for the past 75 years, such nuclear deterrence has been with us around much of the northern hemisphere virtually as a system to contain, if not maintain, the structural distrust among ideologies, nations and now religions. Unless this distrust is fundamentally eliminated, we will have to live with the nuclear deterrent.
Peace drive based on True Love
UPF’s founders, Dr. and Mrs. Moon, have advocated and practiced an ultimate solution to break this kind of global state of distrust based on True Love, or Living for the sake of others. Religiously committed anti-communists, they nonetheless were invited by Moscow in 1990 and Pyongyang the next year, cordially discussing matters with President Gorbachev and President Kim Il Sung. They produced important documents listing some steps aimed at eventual peace. Their example has guided UPF, since its establishment 15 years ago, to foster trust among different peoples, conflicting faiths and even hostile nations, calling for Interdependence, Co-prosperity and Universal Values.
In conclusion, Europe’s engagement in extending and sharing its post-Cold War peace, unity and prosperity with Asia are highly sought after, at least, until Asia’s Berlin Wall - the 38th parallel - is dismantled and both peoples of Korea unite and live happily. Thank you for your attention.