Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury
Relations between South and North Korea are becoming increasingly warmer and cordial. People in the peninsula are talking about the importance of unification of the Koreans without wasting further time. Ahead of this week’s summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongyang, North Korea is once again highlighting the idea of reuniting the two countries divided since the 1940s, through state media and major events.
But, a section of the media is making continuous bids in sabotaging the unification by catering misleading facts. Lately, Reuters news agency in a report claimed ‘in South Korea, the concept of unification has become increasingly complex and viewed as unrealistic amid an ever-widening gulf between the two nations’.
Quoting Lim Eul-chul, professor of North Korean studies at Kyungnam University in Seoul, Reuters wrote, “North Korea’s rhetoric gravitates around unification not because they really believe in an immediate unification but it’s a powerful slogan that gives justification for them to improve inter-Korean relations.”
“To South Koreans, the idea of unification is not as appealing because it immediately reminds them of the burden of unification costs,” Lim added.
But North Korean media are playing positive role in this regard. Rodong Sinmun on September 16, 2018, quoted Kim Jong Un saying, “We should tear down this wall of conflict to meet the Korean people’s constant ideals and demands to open a grand path for unification.”
On the streets of Pyongyang, North Koreans interviewed by Reuters uniformly supported the idea of unification, and just as uniformly, said Kim Jong Un is making it more likely than ever.
“Under the dear leader’s superior leadership, I believe the nation’s unification could certainly become reality if the North and the South cooperate from now on,” cashier Ri Hae Kyong, 53 told Reuters.
Cosmetics clerk Yang Su Jong, 27, also said she believes “it’s not long” before unification happens, in part because Kim had made North Korea a “strong nuclear power.”
Sixteen-year-old Ri Jin Ryong, a member of North Korea’s paramilitary Worker-Peasant Red Guards militia, says he has one message for South Koreans if the two countries ever reunite.
“I will spread the word about how wonderful it is to be in our dear Marshal Kim Jong Un’s arms,” he told Reuters at Pyongyang’s zoo, where he and other soldiers were given a day of recreation after participating in a grueling military parade before the North Korean leader on September 9.
One country, two systems:
International sanctions over North Korea’s nuclear weapons restrict many cooperative projects and trade, a major obstacle to warming ties between the two Koreas, let alone reunification.
But North Korean defectors are much more likely to support the idea than their Southern neighbors, according to past surveys.
More than 95 percent of North Korean defectors who responded said unification is needed, compared to about 53 percent for South Korean respondents, one 2017 survey by the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies showed.
For decades, North Koreans have pushed the concept of “one country, two systems,” under which the country would maintain different systems of government in the North and South, at least until the two could be peacefully reconciled.
“We understood that we should acknowledge differences between the North and the South on ideology, religion, faith alike, and cooperate with each other,” one North Korean who defected to the South in 2013 spoke on condition of anonymity.
“I also remember learning that unification would also help resolve our economic difficulties.”
After the first meeting between leaders of the two Koreas in 2000, both sides agreed to consider the idea of “one country, two systems”, at least as an interim step to unification.
But on its website, the Institute for Unification Education, the education arm of South Korea’s Unification Ministry, said the North’s idea of a federation consisting of two regional governments with different ideologies and systems “has little possibility of becoming reality given no historical precedents.”
“North Korea’s rhetoric concentrates on the unification between one people … but what it really means is that they think unification between the Koreas justifies disregarding international relations and sanctions,” said Shin Beom-chul, senior fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul.
“In a situation where there are U.N. and U.S. sanctions, it’s hard to go along with that rhetoric for the South.”
Evil tactics of keeping the Koreans divided:
As the Koreans are near the reality of the theory – one country two systems, economic experts say, sanctions banning almost all trade with North Korea have hindered even basic bilateral exchanges between the neighbors. South and North Korea opened a liaison office on September 14, 2018 after weeks of delay, as Seoul sought to address Washington’s concerns about a potential breach of sanctions.
Experts say, as the relations between the two Koreas deepens; international sanctions should be gradually lifted from North Korea thus opening the window of strengthening North-South ties.
In my opinion, international community needs to bestow confidence in South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The two brotherly neighbors need to receive total support from the international community in deleting the decade-old mistrust and enmity, thus beginning a new era of North-South relations. These two leaders can easily adopt a workable policy of the one country two systems. North Koreans should be relieved of the burdens of decade-old punitive sanctions. This will not only will be a good news for the Koreans but also for the rest of the world.