Born in the southern province of Kyongsang, in the Republic of Korea, Park Jae-Kyu studied International Relations at City University of New York (CUNY) where he discovered his passion for North Korean Studies.
Professor at the Kyungnam University, he founded in 1972 the Institute of Far East Studies (IFES) to promote peace between the two Koreas and to encourage reunification.
In 1986, he became President of the University.
At the end of 1999, Kim Dae-Jung, President of the Republic of Korea, named him minister of Reunification in order to implement policies on cooperation and reconciliation with North Korea.
Since 2003, he has resumed his Presidency of the Kyungnam University. Park Jae-Kyu is the author of works on inter-Korean relations such as: The Politics of North Korea, The Foreign Relations of North Korea, and Nuclear Proliferation in Developing Countries.
Cold War, Détente, and the Resurgence of Tensions between the Two Koreas (November 2009)
When the peninsula was divided in 1948, the Republic of Korea (the South, supported by the United States) was diametrically opposed to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (the North, supported by the USSR). The differences became an overt and international conflict (1950-1953).
The 1953 ceasefire was never followed by a formal peace treaty. Both countries consider themselves to be in a state of co-belligerence. The closing of the border created another iron curtain.
Korean rapprochement had been undertaken in the 1960s. However, they failed because South Korea did not want to jeopardise its privileged military ties with the USA. This endeavour was renewed with the end of the Cold War and the admission of both Koreas into the United Nations. Efforts resulted in 2000 with a first meeting of the leaders of both countries at Pyongyang. The “Peace and Prosperity” policy instigated by the South Korean President, Kim Dae-Jung, struck a favourable chord with his North Korean counterpart Kim Jung-il. This policy wanted to establish a new climate of confidence, and especially favoured the opening and development of North Korea in order to avoid its economic collapse. Kim Dae-Jung’s policy, nicknamed the “Sunshine policy”, was compared favourably with Chancellor Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik. Korean efforts were honoured with a Nobel Peace Prize. They inspired functionalist theories about international relations where the pragmatic creation of common economic interests allows for conflict prevention. In an indeterminate future, this leads to rapprochement and then reconciliation, for the original economic and social differences have been attenuated.
Relations with North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un: a subtle game of patience (January 2012)
A few days ago, Agence France Presse informed us that a strange phenomenon occurred at the Embassy of North Korea in Berlin on December 20, the day after the death of Kim Jong-il. According to the official North Korean agency, KCNA, a chickadee apparently alighted on the window sill of the embassy and for an hour. According to the brief, it signaled its mourning by pecking the glass; while at the same moment, a plant (an olive tree?) flowered in the building’s garden, during the heart of a Berlin winter.
It is unfortunate that the chickadee was not a dove holding in its beak an olive branch. Everyone would have welcomed with joy such a premonitory sign of reconciliation between North and South, a prelude, perhaps, to a sustainable, “systemic peace” on the Korean peninsula. Perhaps the bird was trying to tell us that there is a “window of opportunity” for peace.