In her keynote address to the United Nations General Assembly last month, South Korean President Park Geun-hye sought support for Korean reunification by highlighting that 2014 is the 25th anniversary of the dismantling of the Berlin Wall. She exhorted her fellow leaders saying, “The world must step forward to break down the dividing wall — the only one remaining in the world.”
Miss Park also emphasized that North Korean human rights has become one of the most critical issues for the international community to exhibit great concern. She urged both North Korea and international society to take necessary measures to implement the recommendations of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry report on North Korean human rights, which was approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March.
Miss Park suggested that North Korea’s human rights violation is no longer an issue only between North Korea and the Korean Peninsula, but instead has become a global issue that international society can no longer ignore. Although Seoul has sought to improve North Korean human rights, Pyongyang’s human rights violations have gotten worse during Kim Jong-un’s rule.
During the past two years, North Korea has expanded its political prisoner camps, increased arrests of political dissidents and purged hundreds of officials, including Jang Sung-taek, deputy chairman of the National Defense Committee and Kim Jong-un’s uncle.
South Korea cannot solve North Korea’s human rights violations alone. Consequently, Miss Park raised the issue during her address at the U.N. General Assembly, which can be regarded as the “gem” of multinational diplomacy on which the whole world’s attentions are focused.
She appealed to international society to unite with greater energy to stop human rights violations in North Korea, stressing that human rights are universal values. She reasoned that, if worldwide efforts and concern can improve North Korean human rights, it would promote greater understanding between North Korea and South Korea, establish an opportunity to invigorate inter-Korean exchanges, and pave the way toward Korean reunification.
A peaceful unification of the Korean Peninsula would have a tremendously positive impact on international society, particularly the United States, China, Russia and Japan. Dismantling North Korea’s nuclear weapons could trigger the removal of nuclear weapons in Northeast Asia, and contribute to the stabilization of Northeast Asia as well as of the world.
Korean unification would also generate development in the northeast districts of China, investment expansions in China, Russia and Japan and cost savings to the United States. A unified Korea would also, with a doubling of its territory and increased population, achieve its “Second Miracle in the Han River,” a renewed economic surge.
The Korean people’s dream of unification would connect South Korea, which has been isolated like an island, to China and Russia, and open a golden age for Northeast Asia when Korea, Russia, China and Japan are connected by railways and highways. A train that departs from Japan could arrive at the Korean Peninsula through an underwater tunnel and then travel to Moscow, Paris and London via the Trans-Korean Peninsula Railway, Trans-China Railway and Trans-Siberia Railway.
The unification of the Korean Peninsula would, without a doubt, have a remarkable, positive influence not only on the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia, but also on Europe, the Middle East and the rest of the world.
Therefore, Miss Park’s push at the U.N. General Assembly for unification of the Korean Peninsula and a reduction in human rights violations in North Korea is considered historically significant. Now is the time when international society should actively participate in addressing the human rights violations in North Korea, in response to the sincere appeal of Miss Park.
Ko Young-hwan, a former North Korean diplomat, is senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Strategy in Seoul and a member of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s Unification Preparatory Committee.