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Humphrey Hawksley, Author, Commentator and Former BBC Correspondent
Humphrey Hawksley introduces the speakers
Dr. Charles Yang, Chairman, UPF International
Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, Chair, UPF Europe and Middle East
Professor Kevin Gray: Head of Department for International Relations, Sussex University
Dr. Moon, Byeong Cheol, Senior Research Fellow, UPF Korea
Dr. Niklas Swanström, Director, Institute for Security & Development Policy, Sweden
The Q&A session.
The Q&A session.
Mr. Jacques Marion, Co-Chairman UPF Europe and Middle East
The panelists and organiser bid farewell at the end of the webinar.

 Scroll down for the complete video recording.

Click on the titles under the images for the bios.

Summary:

Mr. Humphrey Hawksley, Author, Commentator and Former BBC CorrespondentMr. Humphrey Hawksley, Author, Commentator and Former BBC CorrespondentUniversal Peace Federation (UPF) United Kingdom in conjunction with UPF Europe and Middle East held a webinar on 19th April, 2024, on the theme “Exploring a European Role in the Search for Peace on the Korean Peninsula”. The webinar was ably moderated by the well-known author, commentator and former BBC Correspondent, Mr. Humphrey Hawksley.

Introductory remarks were given by both Dr Charles Yang, Chairman of UPF International, who stressed the urgency of peace on the Korean peninsula, citing its historical context and global implications. He likened the Korean conflict to broader ideological struggles and called for its resolution as a model for global harmony. Highlighting South Korea's progress contrasted with North Korea's challenges, he emphasized the potential for learning from reunification models like Germany's; and by Dr Katsumi Otsuka, Chairman of UPF Europe and Middle East, who noted a historic shift in North Korea's stance, affecting sentiments for reunification. He emphasized the significance of discussing Europe's role in promoting peace.

Afterwards, 3 experts gave their insight on this important topic. Professor Kevin Gray, Head of Department for International Relations at Sussex University in the UK, discussed Europe's potential contributions to Korean conflict resolution, including behind-the-scenes negotiations and humanitarian aid. He critiqued the EU's past approach and stressed the need for nuanced strategies, considering the complex geopolitical landscape. Dr Moon, Byeong Cheol, Senior Research Fellow at UPF Korea, analysed North Korea's evolving narrative and its impact on peace efforts. He emphasized the need for diplomatic engagement, with European support, to overcome cultural and nuclear obstacles. Dr Niklas Swanström, Director of the Institute for Security and Development Policy in Sweden, explored Europe's capacity for engagement with North Korea amid competing global priorities. He proposed tailored approaches, like academic exchanges, to address regional complexities and emphasized Europe's potential role in bridging divides.

In the question-and-answer session, Mr. Humphrey Hawksley and the panelists discussed past engagements with North Korea and Europe's potential contributions to conflict resolution. They highlighted the need for sustained dialogue and understanding of North Korea's perspectives. In his concluding remarks, Mr Jacques Marion highlighted Europe's historical cooperation in Northeast Asia and proposed avenues for dialogue with North Korea, despite its repressive regime. He underscored the importance of peace initiatives despite current tensions.


Opening Remarks:

Dr. Changshik Yang, Chairman, Universal Peace Federation International

Dr. Changshik Yang, Chairman, Universal Peace Federation InternationalDr Yang emphasised the importance of addressing peace on the Korean peninsula. He outlined the historical context of Korea's division after World War II and the subsequent Korean War, highlighting the global involvement and casualties. Drawing on philosophical roots, he framed the Korean conflict as emblematic of broader ideological confrontations seen throughout history, linking it to contemporary global conflicts like the one between Russia and Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas conflict. He called for a search for permanent peace, suggesting that resolving the Korean conflict could serve as a model for global harmony.

Furthermore, he underscored South Korea's achievements in global competitiveness and military power, juxtaposing them with North Korea's impoverished situation. He emphasised the potential for learning from successful reunification models like Germany's, positioning the unification of the Korean Peninsula as crucial not only for the region, but also as a global issue symbolizing the convergence of democratic and communist worlds and the pathway to a lasting peace.

 

 


Dr Katsumi Otsuka, Chairman of Universal Peace Federation Europe and the Middle East

Dr. Katsumi Otsuka, Chair, UPF Europe & Middle EastDr. Katsumi Otsuka, Chair, UPF Europe & Middle EastIn his introductory remarks, Dr Otsuka affirmed that, undoubtedly, future historians and experts on the Korean Peninsula will record 2023 and 2024 as a historic turning point of the Korean Peninsula issue, because the North Korea supreme leader made it clear at the end of the year 2023 that South Korea was a hostile state, and he abandoned his pursuit of peaceful unification. Even in South Korea, the enthusiasm for the re-unification has sharply weakened. It feels as if the division of the Korean Peninsula is becoming increasingly solidified. In this context, it is very meaningful for us to discuss the European role for peace and the re-unification of the Korean Peninsula.

 

 

 


Panel:

Professor Kevin Gray, Head of International Relations, School of Global Studies, Sussex University, United Kingdom

Professor Kevin Gray: Head of Department for International Relations, Sussex UniversityProfessor Kevin Gray: Head of Department for International Relations, Sussex UniversityProfessor Kevin Gray discussed Europe's potential role in addressing the Korean conflict and the North Korean nuclear issue. While acknowledging the challenges and uncertainties, he suggested that Europe can contribute to behind-the-scenes negotiations and humanitarian aid efforts. Gray noted the unprecedented tensions between North and South Korea, as well as between North Korea and the United States, against the backdrop of the "New Cold War" and renewed DPRK-Russia relations.

Professor Gray criticized the EU's historical approach of "critical engagement" toward North Korea, highlighting its alignment with the US and reliance on sanctions, which have had limited success. He drew parallels with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) with Iran but underscored the complexities of negotiating with a DPRK possessing nuclear warheads. Professor Gray emphasized the necessity of lifting sanctions as part of any potential deal, noting the EU's comparatively lesser sanctions and the need for US involvement in crafting agreements.

Furthermore, Professor Gray underscored Europe's potential role in humanitarian assistance, particularly considering the presence of European NGOs on the ground in North Korea. He anticipated challenges in reestablishing humanitarian operations, including negotiations with the DPRK and competition for donor attention amidst crises in other regions like Gaza and Ukraine. Despite recognizing Europe's experience and potential contributions, Gray emphasized the significant challenges ahead.


Dr Moon, Byeong Cheol, Senior Research Fellow, Senior Research Fellow, UPF Korea

Dr. Moon, Byeong Cheol, Senior Research Fellow, UPF KoreaDr. Moon, Byeong Cheol, Senior Research Fellow, UPF KoreaDr Moon Byeong Cheol addressed three key questions concerning the Korean peninsula. Firstly, he discussed North Korea's recent policy shift from a "one Korea" to a "two states" narrative, indicating a departure from its previous stance on unification. This shift raises concerns among South Koreans who aspire for reunification and prompts reflections on US administration policies and North Korea's motivations, including its growing relationship with Russia. Despite the challenges posed by the current situation, the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) remains committed to peacebuilding and eventual reunification, urging both North and South Korea to reconsider their rigid positions and advocating for diplomatic engagement.

Regarding the prospect of a peace treaty, Dr Moon highlighted the cultural and nuclear obstacles hindering its realization. He emphasized South Korea's direct involvement in negotiations, alongside the United States, and the importance of European nations' diplomatic support. Drawing parallels with European involvement in nuclear negotiations with Iran, Dr. Moon suggested that European nations could serve as honest brokers in facilitating dialogue between North and South Korea. He stressed the need for increased official development assistance to address humanitarian concerns in North Korea, alongside diplomatic efforts, underscoring the importance of European nations' active engagement in promoting peace and denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.


Dr Niklas Swanström, Director, Institute for Security & Development Policy, Sweden

Dr. Niklas Swanström, Executive Director, Institute for Security & Development Policy, SwedenDr. Niklas Swanström, Executive Director, Institute for Security & Development Policy, SwedenDr Niklas Swanstrom discussed Europe's potential role in engaging with North Korea amidst shifting geopolitical dynamics. He noted North Korea's outreach to Europe despite its reliance on Russia and China, indicating a recognition of the limitations of its current alliances. However, Dr Swanstrom questioned Europe's capacity to play a significant role, especially in light of its focus on other global priorities such as the conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East, as well as resource constraints, particularly in countries like Sweden.

While acknowledging North Korea's reluctance to engage in immediate denuclearization talks, Swanstrom suggested avenues for constructive engagement, such as academic exchanges and 1.5 track diplomacy. He cautioned against expecting quick solutions and emphasized the need for a nuanced understanding of North Korea's perspectives and interests, proposing a Helsinki-like process tailored to address regional complexities and tangible issues like humanitarian assistance and environmental concerns.

Swanstrom also reflected on North Korea's characterization of South Korea as a hostile state, attributing it to North Korea's recognition of South Korea's growing strength and the challenges of potential unification. Despite scepticism regarding immediate unification prospects, he sees a potential role for Europe in bridging divides between North and South Korea, particularly in addressing practical challenges related to the differences between the two states.

In response to questions from Humphrey Hawksley, Dr Niklas Swanstrom discussed the importance of consistent engagement with North Korea, emphasizing the need for both short-term and long-term strategies involving various stakeholders, including the younger generation and current decision-makers. Dr Swanstrom highlighted divisions within North Korea's leadership and the opportunity for engagement despite differing priorities among DPRK government departments. The various stakeholders in the DPRK government stress the necessity for sustained commitment from institutions and governments in Europe to foster constructive dialogue with North Korea, acknowledging the challenges posed by political cycles and the need for long-term consistency in engagement efforts. Regarding the potential impact of President Trump's re-election, Dr Swanstrom suggested that while it may change dynamics, there are uncertainties about whether it would lead to positive or negative outcomes given past experiences and high expectations from North Korea.


Question & answer session.

Humphrey Hawksley and the panel explored various facets of the Korean issue, from the impact of past administrations like Obama's or Trump's engagement with North Korea to the potential role of European countries in addressing the conflict. They discussed the complexities of negotiating with North Korea and the challenges posed by unrealistic expectations and geopolitical dynamics involving Russia, China, and the US. Despite limited European attention to the Korean Peninsula, the panel suggested avenues for engagement, such as track 1.5 diplomacy and sustained dialogue, emphasizing the need for consistent efforts to understand North Korea's perspectives and interests. Regarding the possibility of Japan or South Korea going nuclear, the panel acknowledged the potential for increased crisis but questions whether it would be enough to spur significant European involvement in the issue. Ultimately, they highlight the importance of addressing underlying geopolitical tensions and fostering meaningful dialogue to advance peace and stability in the region.


Closing remarks

Mr. Jacques Marion, Co-Chair, Universal Peace Federation Europe and the Middle East

Mr. Jacques Marion, Co-chair, UPF Europe & Middle East, FranceMr. Jacques Marion, Co-chair, UPF Europe & Middle East, FranceIn his closing remarks, Mr. Jacques Marion, Co-Chair of the Universal Peace Federation in Europe and the Middle East, reflected on Europe's potential role in fostering peace on the Korean peninsula amidst the current geopolitical tensions. He highlighted Europe's historical focus on cooperation in Northeast Asia and questioned how it can mediate between the conflicting camps in the region. Marion drew attention to the importance of trust-building, citing the example of former MEP Glyn Ford's long-standing engagement with North Korea and the establishment of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with the Korean Peninsula. He suggested that despite North Korea's repressive regime, engagement and cooperation offer avenues for dialogue and potential peace.

Mr. Marion emphasized the need for Europe to engage North Korea and offer alternatives that address its needs, potentially defusing tensions in areas like agriculture and health. He acknowledged the challenges but believes in Europe's resources and North Korea's potential expectations from European nations. Mr. Marion concluded by reaffirming the Universal Peace Federation's commitment to initiatives promoting unity and peace on the Korean peninsula, citing potential economic projects such as a Japan-Korea tunnel, as well as regular awareness-raising conferences, as important factors despite the prevailing tensions.

Click here for Mr. Jacques Marion's full speech


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