Sunday, May 01, 2005

The Koreas - in hope we trust

Straits Times
Tuesday, February 4, 2003

By Frank-Juergen Richter and Thang Nguyen

DAVOS (Switzerland) - Mark Twain once said: 'If history does not repeat itself, it often rhymes.'
Almost a decade ago, North Korea put the Korean Peninsula in the same crisis as it does now with its nuclear activities.

Then United States President Bill Clinton was prepared to use force to solve that crisis, but it was the last resort.

Thus, he sent former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, last year's Nobel peace prize-winner, as an envoy to Pyongyang for peace talks.

This historical visit, in retrospect, helped to prevent a war.

Another notable individual who has been, and still is, committed to making the Korean Peninsula safer and better is none other than President Kim Dae-Jung, who earned the Nobel peace prize in 2000 for his 'Sunshine Policy', a plan to unify the two Koreas.

Some may call peacemakers like President Kim 'dreamers'.

But how would the world be, had it not been for those whose ideas not only change it, but also make it more peaceful and better?As the situation in the Korean Peninsula develops, there are signs of hope.

Since his victory last December, President-elect Roh Moo-hyun has shown his willingness to work with Pyongyang to achieve peace.He has announced an initiative that will include aid to Pyongyang in infrastructure, energy and agriculture.

Ultimately, he is said to see the Korean Peninsula as the economic hub of North-east Asia.
Is it too bold to imagine that there may even be a united Korea in a decade from now?
Too far-fetched? Just look at Germany: Who would have thought that the Berlin Wall, the symbol of the 20th century's ideological dichotomy, would fall in 1989?

The current North Korean nuclear crisis needs the work of and the commitment from not only South Korea and Japan but also the U.S., the European Union, and the United Nations (UN).
The need for global efforts in making the Korean Peninsula a more peaceful place is recognized by the World Economic Forum during its annual meeting this year here in Davos.

Last month, the Forum held a Special Meeting on North Korea.

Among the discussion leaders were Mr. Chung Dong-Young, Special Envoy of the President-elect of the Republic of Korea; Mr. Bill Richardson, Governor of New Mexico, U.S.; Mr. Ichiro Fujisaki, Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Japan; and Mr. Maurice Strong, President, University for Peace and special adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Mr. Chung started the discussion with a message from President-elect Roh that the South Korean government would like to see that Pyongyang's nuclear activities be decelerated and is willing to work with North Korea.

Governor Richardson, who met North Korean officials as the crisis started to accelerate last month, said that there will be direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea, perhaps at a technical level.

Mr. Fujisaki said that Japan is optimistic about settling the problems, among which is North Korea's nuclear activities.

Mr. Strong, who just went to North Korea to discuss its needs for food aid, said that trust is crucial for a positive outcome.

'The interesting issue here is that you have the two sides ready to say what the other wants to hear but no framework, no ability to bring these things together,' he said.

The current situation in the Korean Peninsula, thus, requires dialogues among not only Asian leaders but also their counterparts elsewhere.

But most importantly, it requires trust. Without trust, there is no hope.

Frank-Juergen Richter is director for Asia and Thang Nguyen is regional manager for Asia at the World Economic Forum.

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7:34 PM  

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