|Former Unification Minister of the Republic of Korea, Park Jae-Kyu continues to promote better dialogue with North Korea and a peaceful reconciliation of the two Koreas. George Tsai, a member of the Fondation Chirac’s Committee of Experts for Conflict Prevention, interviews him. |
Political relations between the two Koreas appear to be in a deadlock. Since the arrival of the new government in Seoul in 2008, inter-Korean relations have gradually deteriorated. It is no secret that Seoul and Pyongyang are not in phase on a number of topics.
As for the Cheonan incident (a South Korean corvette was torpedoed, resulting in 47 victims, [Ed.]), it is too early to say what impact this tragedy will have on relations between the two Koreas, or on the six-party talks to denuclearize. Investigators have finally produced clear evidence about what happened and concluded that the ship had indeed been sunk by North Korea. Pyongyang denies any involvement, however, and claims that the evidence was manufactured by South Korean authorities. I believe we can expect to see the international community deploy important diplomatic efforts to punish those responsible for this tragedy.
In your opinion, what strategy should be adopted by both parties in order to increase the odds for lasting peace, and eventually, a possible unification?
It will be difficult to achieve lasting peace without maintaining dialogue. On many levels, the two sides do not talk. It is no secret that North Korea suffers economically. The question of who shall succeed at the head of the country makes North Korea’s internal situation even more uncertain. How can we respond to these concerns? Without criticizing the policies we are currently applying, reality should encourage us to look more closely at North Korea’s needs and start working from there.
More specifically, in the present context, is the system of sanctions effective or counter-productive?
Taking into account the geopolitical reality of Northeast Asia, some sanctions may be deemed appropriate, and their implementation strategy justified. I do not however think sanctions are effective nor the right approach. It is difficult to see how these sanctions could work unless all nations adhere. To improve the inter-Korean situation and context, we earnestly need to build a relationship of trust. This relationship however, is very difficult to create by applying sanctions.
You have founded two organizations: the Institute for Far Eastern Studies and the University of North Korean Studies, both of which have conducted pioneering work to highlight a better understanding of the North and the relationship between North and South. Could you describe what these organizations have done?
Beyond the regular efforts with which we are involved to promote a better understanding of North Korea, the Institute and the University launched, in January, the inauguration of the Washington Forum, in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
We hope this event will participate meaningfully in policies toward North Korea in this difficult context.
Key dates for this quarter