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☞ Issue 239
One Korea Unification Vision through Neutralization
Tae-Hwan Kwak, Ph. D.
(Professor Emeritus, Eastern Kentucky University/ Chair Professor, Kyungnam University)
Koreans wish to achieve Korean unification as a long-term goal, but it is regrettable that many obstacles hinder the Korean unification process. This paper attempts to evaluate conflicting unification formulae of the two Koreas and to propose one Korea unification formula through neutralization as an alternative to the two Koreas’ existing formulae. The rationale for one Korea neutralization-unification formula is provided, and a five-stage unification formula has been proposed. The Korean people as key players must work together for a neutralization-unification formula and persuade four major powers to support a neutralized, unified Korea, which will be in their best interests.
A unified Korea through neutralization will never be easy and smooth. It will take many years of preparation and patience to achieve a unified, neutralized one Korean state. It is argued that a neutralization-unification formula could be an alternative to the existing unification formulae because of conflicting approaches to Korean unification between the two Koreas.
Keywords: DFRK unification formula, KNC unification formula, one Korea unification formula, neutralization regime building, rationale for neutralization, five stages of neutralization-unification formula.
***This is a revised version of my earlier paper, titled "One Korea Unification Vision through Neutralization: What Should Be Done?" presented at the Global Peace Convention 2013
Shangri-La Hotel Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, December 5-8, 2013, and my article titled "In Search of a Creative Korean Unification formula through Neutralization," published in Journal of Peace and Unification, Vol.3, No.2 (Fall 2013), pp. 51-74. The author wishes to express his sincere thanks for his colleagues’ invaluable comments on his original paper.
Seventy-five years have passed since the division of the Korean peninsula in 1945. In reality, there exist two sovereign U.N. member states: the Republic of Korea (ROK or South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea). The DPRK is a nuclear armed state, threatening peace and security on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia. The road to a peaceful unification of the Korean peninsula appears to be getting bumpier and far from reality.
With the inauguration of Lee Myung-bak’s presidency in February 2008, Lee took a hardline policy toward the North, renouncing the Sunshine Policy, suspending many inter-Korean economic projects, and linking inter-Korean cooperation with Pyongyang’s denuclearization process. Lee’s hard-line policy combined with North Korea’s missteps and aggressive behavior in 2010 rapidly brought deterioration to inter-Korean relations, heightening tensions and mutual distrust between Seoul and Pyongyang. But President Park Keun-hye in February 2013 adopted a new policy toward North Korea known as “the Korean Peninsula trust-building process,” to improve inter-Korean relations.
Because of Kim Jong-il’s sudden death on 17 December, 2011, the DPRK was unstable and uncertain, but it has now been stable under the Kim Jong-un regime. With new leadership changes in South Korea in 2013, inter-Korean relations were expected to improve. A unified Korean peninsula may be achieved under peaceful conditions. Unfortunately, conditions for the peace and unification processes on the Korean peninsula do not exist and thus need to be created.
The ROK and the DPRK have different unification formulae: the “Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo” (DFRK) formula of North Korea and the “Korean National Community” (KNC) unification formula of South Korea. The DFRK formula requires the abolition of the ROK’s National Security Law, U.S. troop withdrawal from the South, and other such points as preconditions for implementing the North Korean unification formula. In the meantime, the KNC unification formula has no preconditions for implementing the plan. Because of conflicting unification formulae, an alternative to the existing unification formulae of the two Koreas is thus desirable.
The ROK and the DPRK agreed in the second paragraph of the June 15 Joint Declaration (2000) to work together to construct a unified Korea: Seoul’s KNC unification formula proposal for an inter-Korean confederation and Pyongyang’s proposal for a low-level federation have common elements, and the two governments can thus work together toward achieving national unification. No discussions on this issue have been held by the two Koreas for the past 15 years. This means that the two Koreas lack political will to unify the Korean peninsula. The two Koreas need to agree on a common unification formula. The author has proposed that a common Korean unification formula through neutralization be considered as an alternative to the conflicting unification formulae of the two Korean states.
In this paper the author attempts (1) to evaluate conflicting unification formulae of the two Koreas and (2) to propose one Korea unification vision through neutralization based on a neutralized peace system on the Korean peninsula as an alternative to the two Koreas’ existing unification formulae.
II. CORE ISSUES RESOLVED IN THE PEACE AND UNIFICATION PROCESS
A unified Korean peninsula may not be achieved without first building a peace regime replacing the Korean armistice regime. Therefore, favorable conditions for peace and unification on the Korean peninsula need to be created. Core issues identified as key obstacles to the peace and unification process need to be resolved first. Let us take a brief look at six core issues.
First, there is an absence of mutual trust between the ROK and the DPRK. The build-up of inter-Korean mutual trust is an urgent task. There is neither mutual trust between the two Koreas nor a political will to make all efforts to achieve a peaceful unification. Seoul and Pyongyang have produced significant documents to improve inter-Korean relations, including inter-Korean basic agreement (effective 1992), June 15(2000) joint declaration signed by President Kim Dae Jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il, October 4 (2007) joint statement between President Roh Moo Hyun and Kim Jong Il. The inter-Korean agreements for creating favorable conditions for peace and unification on the Korean peninsula need to be respected, observed and implemented. But deeply-rooted mutual distrust and hostility, incompatible ideologies, and conflicting political, social, economic systems between the two Koreas are key obstacles to the peace and unification process. These issues need to be resolved first. The two Koreas need to engage in a policy of reconciliation and cooperation. With an engagement policy change of the two Koreas, one can expect an improvement in inter-Korean relations.
Second, the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula through the Six-Party Talks needs to be achieved. The DPRK declared itself a nuclear state in the preamble of the April 13, 2012 revised constitution, and made a statement to abandon North Korea's denuclearization in January 2013. The DPRK had been committed to the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula under the September 19 joint agreement (2005). None of the Six-Party Talks members will accept North Korea's nuclear status. The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula is a prerequisite to peace regime building on the Korean peninsula. Thus, denuclearization and peace regime are essential conditions for realizing a unified Korean peninsula (Kwak 2012).
Third, the ROK and the DPRK as key players need to take the initiative to work together to create favorable conditions for a peace and unification process on the Korean peninsula. The two Koreas have conflicting approaches to a peace regime building on the Korean peninsula. The DPRK has consistently insisted on concluding a U.S.-DPRK peace treaty replacing the 1953 Korean armistice agreement in order to resolve mutual mistrust, reduce hostile interactions and pave a new road to the peace and unification process. On the other hand, the ROK has maintained a two plus two formula (inter-Korean peace agreement + China and U.S. guarantees) to build up mutual trust through mutual exchanges and cooperation by a step-by-step approach. The two conflicting approaches to a peace regime building need to be compromised. However, the United States and China prefer a multilateral peace treaty for building a peace regime on the Korean peninsula (Kwak and Joo 2010).
Fourth, the DPRK has maintained “one Korea” policy. In reality, there exist the two Korean sovereign states on the Korean peninsula recognized in international law. There exist the two Korean states: in the South, the ROK and the DPRK in the North. Both became UN member states in 1991. But the DPRK advocates one Korea, two systems and two governments, not two Korean states. This argument is not persuasive under international law, but the two Koreas have recognized the special relationship in inter-Korean relations. Now is the time for both Koreas to accept the two Korean states on the Korean peninsula as sovereign states, and formally recognize each other, thereby concluding a basic treaty and establishing normalized relations between the ROK and the DPRK until a unified Korea is achieved.
Fifth, the ROK and the DPRK have different Korean unification formulae: the “Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo" (DFRK) formula of North Korea and the “Korean National Community"(KNC) of South Korea. The DFRK formula requires an abolition of ROK’s National Security Law and U.S. troop withdrawal from the South, and other points as preconditions for implementing the North Korean unification formula. In the meantime, the KNC formula has no preconditions for implementing the plan. Because of conflicting unification formulae, an alternative to the existing unification formulae of the two Koreas is thus desirable.
Sixth, the ROK and the DPRK agreed to construct a unified Korea in the second paragraph of the June 15 Joint Declaration (2000): ROK’s National Community proposal and DPRK’s proposal for a low-level federation have in common, and thus they will work together for achieving a national unification. No discussions on this issue have been conducted by the two Koreas for the past 15 years. This means that the two Koreas lack a political will to unify the Korean peninsula. The two Koreas need to agree on a common unification formula. The author has proposed that a Korean unification formula through neutralization be considered as an alternative to the conflicting unification formulae of the two Korean states.
III. CONFLICTING UNIFICATION FORMULAE OF THE TWO KOREAS
One of obstacles to the Korean unification process is that the ROK and the DPRK have conflicting unification formulae, and they thus need to work together sincerely to find a mutually acceptable unification formula for constructing one Korean state. Let us first take a brief look at the DPRK’s unification formula which the ROK cannot accept.
The DPRK’s unification formula: Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo (DFRK)
Kim Il Sung set forth the DFRK plan in his report to the Sixth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea on 10 October, 1980. Kim claimed that the DFRK plan was “the most realistic and shortest way to realize Korea’s reunification on the basis of the three principles of independence, peaceful reunification and great national unity.” Kim spelled out the basic features of the DFRK’s formula, its composition and functions, and the ten-point policy that should be carried out by the federal government. He further stated that “Our party holds that the country should be reunified by founding a Federal Republic through the establishment of a unified national government on condition that the North and the South recognize and tolerate each other’s ideas and social systems, a government in which the two sides are represented on an equal footing and under which they exercise regional autonomy respectively with equal rights and duties” (Kim 1980, 60-70).
The DFRK’s formula is a federal (originally translated as confederate in English) system in which the two regional governments can coexist under one roof, i.e., a Supreme National Federal Assembly (SNFA) and a Federal Standing Committee (FSC) are the unified government of the federal state. The SNFA should be formed with an equal number of representatives from the North and the South and an appropriate number of representatives of overseas Koreans. The FSC, a permanent organ of the SNFA and a unified government, would guide the regional governments in the North and the South and administer all affairs of the federal state (see Kwak 1986, 29-39). Kim Il Sung, spelling out the operation of the SNFA and the FSC in a speech on 9 September, 1983, said, “It would be reasonable that as the unified government of the federal state, the supreme national federal assembly and the federal standing committee elect their respective co-chairman both from the north and south, who will run these bodies in turn” (Korea Today 1983, 15).
The DFRK’s formula appears to be persuasive, but it has several structural deficiencies. First, North Korea claims that the DFRK is a complete form of federation, not an interim step to the final federation form in the unification process. In fact, if the DFRK is a final form, the problem is that the ROK cannot accept it primarily due to the preconditions for implementing it. Second, given incompatible ideological, political, economic, and social systems, how long can such a federal state survive? There was no mention about power distribution in a federal state and power sharing between the two regional governments and a central government in a unified Korea. Third, there are at least five preconditions for establishing the DFRK: (1) resignation of the current ROK government, (2) abolition of anti-communist policy in the South, (3) elimination of National Security Law in the South, (4) U.S. troop withdrawal from the South, and (5) release of political prisoners, including communists in the South. The ROK must accept these conditions for establishing a federal state under the DFRK’s formula. Needless to say, Seoul cannot accept these conditions and the DFRK’s formula, because it perceives the DFRK as a means to communize the South (Kwak 1986).
The ROK’s Korean National Community (KNC) Unification Formula
During the late 1980s, the Soviet Union and East European socialist states went through a rapid process of disintegration, as the Cold War was rapidly dismantled. In the midst of such changes, President Roh Tae-woo, who was inaugurated in February 1988, promoted a new North Korea policy in the changing international security environment. Roh, in a special declaration on 7 July, 1988, acknowledged North Korea as a partner in good will. Based on this premise, he proposed that Seoul and Pyongyang develop a joint national community in which the two Koreas would enjoy co-prosperity. Subsequently, to achieve this common goal, the Roh government passed an Inter-Korean Exchange and Cooperation Act on 1 August, 1990, thereby opening a new era of exchange and cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang (Peace and Cooperation: White Paper on Korean Unification 1996).
In an address to the National Assembly on 11 September, 1989, Roh presented his original Korean National Community (KNC) unification formula, which has been the official unification formula of the ROK (Roh 1989). Thanks to such efforts, Seoul and Pyongyang reached a set of historic agreements, including the Agreement on Reconciliation, Nonaggression and Exchange and Cooperation (referred to as the Basic Agreement), the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and the Agreement on the Creation and Operation of Joint Commissions, which came into effect on 19 February, 1992. Subsequently, Seoul and Pyongyang agreed on the creation of a Joint Military Commission and an Economic Exchanges and Cooperation Commission, as well as the establishment of a South-North liaison office. An agreement on the creation and operation of a South-North Reconciliation Commission, along with supplementary agreements in each area, was adopted in September 1992. Roh’s initial “engagement policy” toward North Korea was remarkably innovative and constructive for improving inter-Korean relations.
President Kim Young Sam in his speech on the 49th anniversary of national liberation on 15 August, 1994 presented a modified version of the Roh’s KNC unification formula, clarifying basic philosophy, unification process, and procedures for unification as well as the future of a unified Korea. Kim’s modified KNC unification formula proposed a national community as a new paradigm in unification policy. A national community provides a communal society where all the members share common values and a common ethnic heritage. Seoul has long maintained that the two Koreas should eventually create a single national democratic welfare community by restoring the sense of common heritage through inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation.
The ROK’s unification formula, based on the three principles of independence, peace, and democracy, is designed to establish a unified, democratic republic through the inter-Korean confederation as an interim step under the principles of peace, non-use of military force, and grand national unity through democratic procedures. The ROK proposed a blueprint for a unified Korea through an inter-Korean confederation by drafting and finalizing a unified constitution, holding general elections, and forming a unified legislature and a unified government. President Roh Tae-woo suggested the creation and operation of a Korean National Community as an interim stage pending the establishment of a unified Korea, proposing the establishment and operation of a Council of Presidents, a Council of Ministers, a Council of Representatives, and a Joint Secretariat as the organizations of the interim system.
The Lee Myung-bak and Park Keun-hye governments officially supported the KNC unification formula. In short, the ROK has supported a three-stage unification formula based on three principles of independence, peace, and liberal democracy. The Korean unification process is based on a three-stage gradual approach to a unified Korea: first stage, inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation; second stage, South-North Korean confederation; and third stage, establishment of a unified Korea. The ROK’s unification vision is to achieve one nation, one state, one system, and one government through the KNC unification formula.
The ROK hoped that the DPRK would pursue reform and openness under conditions of stability and abandon its ambitions to communize the South, and it clearly reiterated that it had no desire to unify the Korean peninsula by absorbing the North. A unified Korean peninsula no longer remains wishful thinking. It has now become a realistic goal. This calls for greater preparedness on the part of the South for unification, including the buildup of its capabilities to accomplish the task, as well as its more active efforts to improve inter-Korean relations.
Paragraph Two of the June 15 (2000) Joint Declaration
President Kim Dae-jung and Chairman Kim Jong Il had a historic summit meeting in Pyongyang on 13-15 June, 2000 and signed the June 15 Joint Declaration, opening a new era of reconciliation, cooperation and peace between the two Koreas. Since the first inter-Korean summit in June 2000, inter-Korean relations substantially improved until the advent of the Lee Myung-bak government in February 2008. The second inter-Korean summit between President Roh Moo-hyun and Chairman Kim Jong Il contributed to changes in North Korean perceptions of South Korea and the outside world. But North Korea’s nuclear issue has been a key obstacle to the Korean peace/unification processes. Inter-Korean relations under the Lee regime went back to the hostile inter-Korean relations prior to the June 15 Joint Declaration.
(1) DPRK’s Proposal for a Low-Level Federation
Why is it so important for the two Koreas to discuss the second paragraph of the five-point June 15 Joint Declaration? It states, “Acknowledging that there are common elements in the South’s proposal for a confederation and the North’s proposal for a federation of lower stage as the formulae for achieving reunification, the South and the North agreed to promote reunification in that direction in the future” (Peace and Cooperation: White Paper 2001, 39). This joint declaration is a departure from the past, symbolizing the end of ideological arguments. Let us turn to discuss differences and similarities between the two proposals and take a brief look at the key problems in the declaration.
As discussed above, Pyongyang has maintained that its DFRK’s unification formula is a complete form in which a federal state will exercise national defense and diplomatic rights, while the South and the North will exercise their respective rights over regional affairs. But since 1991, Pyongyang has maintained the basic structure of one nation, one state, two systems, and two regional governments, while each regional government will take charge of national defense and diplomatic rights. The DFRK plan tactically changed in the early 1990s. It appears that the DFRK plan sees a gradual approach to unification and a federal state remains a symbol and each regional government will be in charge of economics, culture, national defense, and diplomacy. This plan is similar to that of the South’s confederation proposal at the second stage of its unification formula. Kim Il Sung wanted to keep his system intact through temporary coexistence with the South in a hostile international environment following the end of the Cold War.
The DPRK’s proposal for a low-level federation symbolized peaceful coexistence between the two Korean states. One argues that North Korea has changed its unification formula strategically, but this argument is not persuasive. Nevertheless, it appears that the DFRK plan still remains alive. An Kyoung-ho, Director of Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, explaining the DPRK’s proposal for a low-level federation at the 6 October, 2000 meeting to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the proposal for founding a Democratic Federal Republic of Koryo (DFRK) as a unification formula, stressed its low-level federation as a unification formula under which the two regional governments in Korea will retain political, diplomatic, and military rights as they now do, without handing over sovereign power to a federal government called a “national reunification council.” Under the council, the two regional governments will enjoy sovereign autonomy before establishing a DFRK (Rodong Sinmun, 7 October, 2000; Pyongyang Times, 14 October, 2000; Vantage Point, November 2000, 26-27).
The DPRK argued that the shortest way to Korean unification was to establish a national unified state with a federation formula based on “one nation, one state, two systems and two governments.” The federal formula is based on the three principles of national reunification -- independence, peaceful reunification, and great national unity -- and this low-level federation was initially proposed by President Kim Il Sung in his 1991 New Year message. The concept of the federal republic was first introduced by Kim in August 1960, and formulated in the form of a proposal to the South under the name of the “Democratic Confederate (originally Confederate in English, later changed to Federal) Republic of Koryo” (DC (F) RK) on 10 October, 1980. The DC(F)RK formula was a complete form for national unification, while North Korea’s proposal for a low-level federation is an interim form for eventually establishing the DFRK. Kim Il Sung in October 1980 emphasized, “the most realistic and reasonable way to reunify the country independently, peacefully and on the principle of great national unity is to draw the north and the south together into a federal state, leaving the ideas and social systems existing in the north and south as they are.”
Pyongyang’s proposal for a national (re)unification council was not spelled out in detail in term of functions and roles in a low-level federation. In my view, its low-level federation should be understood as an interim stage to the high-level federation, i.e., a DFRK formula; namely, the DPRK maintains a step-by-step unification plan through a low-level federation to establish the DFRK.
(2) South Korea’s Proposal for Inter-Korean Confederation
The ROK’s proposal for an inter-Korean confederation in the June 15 Joint Declaration is, in fact, the second phase of the ROK’s unification formula. The first phase of inter-Korean reconciliation and cooperation in the KNC unification formula will follow the second phase of the national community (particularly, economic and social community), which is an interim stage to a unitary unified Korea. Therefore, the ROK’s proposal for inter-Korean confederation assumes one nation, one state, two systems, and two governments, and the two Koreas will possess their respective defense and diplomatic rights. Further, the two Koreas will have an inter-Korean summit meeting, an inter-Korean parliamentary meeting, and an inter-Korean cabinet meeting.
Similarities and Differences between the Two Formulae
What are common features of the Seoul’s confederation proposal and the Pyongyang’s low-level federation proposal in the June 15 Joint Declaration? First, the two proposals are based on a principle of peaceful unification. Second, the two proposals have an interim stage in the unification process, not a final stage of Korean unification. The loose form of federation proposed by Kim Il Sung in his New Year address in 1991 appeared to establish a state under one roof, recognizing the existence of two regional governments. In short, North Korea appears to promote a loose form of the DFRK plan under the different term, “a low-level federation” in the June 15 Joint Declaration. Third, North Korea’s proposal for a low-level federation granted diplomatic and defense rights to two regional governments. The two regional governments would participate in the central government on an equal basis. But the national (re)unification council the North Korea mentioned is not yet spelled out in detail.
The differences between the two Koreas’ unification formulae are: First, North Korea’s DFRK plan aims at achieving one nation, one state, two systems, and two governments, while South Korea’s KNC unification formula is designed to achieve one nation, one state, one system and one government. Second, Pyongyang’s proposal for a low-level federation was designed to prevent unification through absorption by Seoul. Third, the DFRK unification formula has preconditions for implementing the plan, while Seoul’s formula does not. Fourth, the DFRK plan has a central government, while Seoul’s inter-Korean confederation plan is an interim stage to a unified Korea. Hence, it does not have a central government (Namkoong 2001, 59-80).
As shown below in Table 1, the differences between Pyongyang’s DFRK formula and Seoul’s KNC formula are remarkable, such that a unified Korea would have different structures and identities. The KNC formula is to establish a unitary, democratic unified state based on nationalism, democracy, freedom and a welfare state, while the DFRK formula is to establish a federal state with one nation, one state, two systems, and two regional governments. Further, the DFRK plan attached at least five preconditions for establishing a federal state, which the ROK cannot accept. Thus, there has been no progress in moving forward to the Korean unification process since the June 15 Joint Declaration in 2000.
A Comparison of the Two Koreas’ Unification Formulae
The ROK and the DPRK need to do joint research on a common unification formula acceptable to both sides. For the past 13 years, the ROK and the DPRK have not even discussed the second paragraph of the June 15 Joint Declaration. The common unification formula should begin with joint research on the second paragraph in order to implement this agreed provision in the future. As we have seen in our discussion of the two Koreas’ unification formulae, the two Koreas cannot accept the each other’s unification formula. The two Koreas should therefore work together in designing a common unification formula. Let us now turn to an alternative to the existing unification formulae of the two Koreas.
IV. ONE KOREA FORMULA THROUGH NEUTRALIZATION REGIME BUILDING
The ROK and the DPRK have insisted on their own unification formulae. Seoul cannot accept Pyongyang’s DFRK formula, while Pyongyang cannot accept Seoul’s KNC formula either. Hence, the author has proposed a new Korean unification formula through neutralization as an alternative.
(1)Peace through Neutralization on the Korean Peninsula (PNKP)
The author has proposed a unified Korea through neutralization regime building based on the concept of peace through neutralization on the Korean peninsula (PNKP). Its concept is relatively easy to understand. If the two Koreas make all efforts to neutralize the extreme thinking, hard-line policy and behavior, then national reconciliation, harmony of interest, and peace between them will ensue. In that direction, there will be a smooth road to a peaceful unification of Korea. A unified Korea will remain a non-aligned, neutralized state, seeking a balanced security and foreign policy.
The concept of PNKP should be considered at three levels: (1) the South Korean domestic level, (2) the inter-Korean level, and (3) the international level. First, ideological cleavages between conservatives and progressives in South Korea need to be resolved through PNKP, and national consensus on a neutralization-unification formula then needs to be achieved. Without neutralizing ideological cleavages in South Korea, there will be no national consensus. Second, inter-Korean reconciliation, cooperation, and peace through neutralization need to be achieved for a neutralized, unified Korea. Third, a unified Korea will be a non-aligned, neutralized state, making no military alliance with any of the four major powers (the U.S., China, Japan, or Russia), maintaining a peaceful and balanced diplomacy with them. It is argued that the neutralization of the Korean peninsula will be in the best interest of the Korean people and the four powers, resolving intra- and inter-Korean ideological conflicts and promoting peace and stability in Northeast Asia. The four major powers need to make firm commitments not to interfere in the domestic affairs of a unified Korea.
A unified Korea would be a peaceful, neutralized, non-aligned state, offering a foundation for peace, security, and co-prosperity in Northeast Asia. In short, a neutralized peace regime on the Korean peninsula will be achieved if there is a national consensus on Korean unification through neutralization in the South and the North. In the near future, with some improvement in the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and some progress in peace-regime building on the Korean peninsula, the Korean unification issue through neutralization could be discussed at the Six-Party Talks and/or multilateral talks.
(2)Neutralization Regime-Building as an Alternative to Two Unification Formulae
A unified Korea remains a future vision, not a reality for 75 million Koreans. The ROK and the DPRK have lived in a hostile confrontation for the last 68 years since the division of the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless, Seoul and Pyongyang have made little efforts to create a unified one Korean state by peaceful means. As discussed above, the reality is that the two Koreas have failed to agree on a common unification formula because of lack of political will to unify the Korean peninsula. The author has opposed a Korean unification by force, absorption, and incorporation. It appears that one Korea vision may be achieved by inter-Korean and international agreements through neutralization.
Neutralization is designed as a means to promote national reconciliation, harmony of interest, peace, and unification on the Korean peninsula, where the interests of the four major powers intersect, mainly because of its geostrategic location. We cannot change geography in Northeast Asia, but we may change history by creating a unification formula through neutralization. A unified Korea’s independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty would be guaranteed by the four major powers concerned, the U.S., China, Russia and Japan, surrounding the Korean peninsula for all times, permanently in times of war and peace under the condition that a unified Korea would permanently agree to renounce war except for self-defense.
In the present Northeast Asian security environment, the four powers are unwilling to support Korean unification primarily because their interests are in conflict. However, a unified Korea through neutralization will benefit all parties concerned—the two Koreas and the four powers. A unified, neutralized Korea will be in the best interest of the four powers, and thus they will support a unified Korean peninsula through neutralization.
The ROK and the DPRK need to be prepared for a unified, neutralized Korean peninsula. First and foremost they must neutralize themselves by disengaging from the bilateral arms race, military provocations, ideological feuding, and military alliance systems. The two Koreas also have to promote national reconciliation, mutual trust and confidence building. Thus, inter-Korean relations must be improved and peaceful so that the two Koreas can negotiate with the four major powers on the neutralization on the Korean peninsula. When a neutralization treaty between the two Koreas and the four powers is concluded, a divided Korea would be transformed into a peaceful and neutralized Korean peninsula.
Neutralization on the Korean Peninsula is based on an assumption that the four powers would prefer a unified, neutral, independent, and peaceful Korea to a divided, unstable one. What’s more, a unified Korean peninsula is unlikely to change the overall strategic balance of power in Northeast Asia. Hence, the author believes that the four major powers are likely to support a neutralized, unified Korean peninsula, which will be in their best interests (Cai 2012; Kaseda 2012; Kim 2012; Zhebin 2012).
(3)The Rationale for a Neutralization-Unification Formula on the Korean Peninsula
What is the rationale for neutralization on the Korean peninsula? Why is a neutralization unification formula desirable? We will look into it from four perspectives. First, from a geopolitical perspective, the Korean peninsula has been a victim of a balance of power politics among major powers surrounding the peninsula for many centuries because of a geopolitical-strategic location, and thus neutralization will liberate the Korean peninsula from a balance of power politics.
Second, from the four major powers’ perspectives, neutralization will be in best interests of the four major powers (the U.S., China, Russia, and Japan). Hence, they will be supportive of a neutralized, denuclearized, unified Korean peninsula.
Third, from the perspectives of the two Koreas, Koreans have suffered from deep ideological cleavages between extreme conservatives and radicals, and neutralization could thus help resolve them. Neutralization could weaken ideological feuds among South Koreans and between the two Koreas as well. Further, neutralization will reduce arms spending of the two Koreas, so the two would invest in economic development projects. In addition, neutralization could also diminish Pyongyang’s incentives for being a nuclear state, thereby accelerating the denuclearization and peace-regime-building process on the Korean peninsula.
Fourth, from a unification formula perspective, the ROK and the DPRK have conflicting unification formulae and cannot accept each other’s present unification formula as discussed above. Thus, the author proposes a neutralization-unification formula as an alternative to existing two Koreas’ unification formulae.
It is argued that one of the core obstacles to the Korean peace and unification processes is the absence of a common Korean unification formula and a common ideology acceptable to the two Koreas. Transforming various conflicting ideologies such as socialism, Juche ideology (independence or self-reliance), Sungunjongchi (military-first politics), capitalism, democracy, and human rights into a common unification ideology seems an impossible task. However, the idea of neutralization serving as a catalyst can contribute to a framework of Korean unification based on the traditional concept of a Hongik Ingan Tongil ideology (way of unification benefiting all). Therefore, we have proposed a Hongik ideology as a common ideology of a unified Korea.
V. STRATEGIES FOR IMPLEMENTING A FIVE-STAGE NEUTRALIZATION-UNIFICATION FORMULA
As discussed above, neutralization based on a neutralized peace regime on the Korean peninsula is absolutely necessary for one Korean state building and will be a win-win strategy for all parties concerned.
A neutralization-unification formula is based on a five-stage neutralization plan through inter-Korean economic-and-peace-community building to construct a unitary, unified, neutralized state. The neutralization-unification formula will be briefly discussed below.
A neutralized Korea will enjoy a neutral status in time of war and peace in international law. The idea of a permanent neutralization on the Korean peninsula has been supported for many centuries by scholars, politicians, and intellectuals primarily because of geopolitical location of the Korean peninsula (Hwang 1987; Kang 2010; Kang 2007). Since the Korean peninsula has been a victim of balance of power politics, a neutralized Korean peninsula idea appeals to many people as a means to insure peace, security, and prosperity on the Korean peninsula. It is significant and encouraging that Dr. Sohn Hak-kyu, a senior advisor to the Democratic Party, made a proposal for the Korean peninsula neutralization-unification formula on 16 July, 2012 (Yonhap News, 16 July, 2012).
The Charter for Neutralization on the Korean peninsula (see Appendix) was declared as a neutralization- unification formula on 21 October, 2010 in Seoul, Korea. The Charter proposes the future vision for a unified Korea through a five-stage neutralization formula. A five-stage neutralization-unification formula for constructing a unitary, unified, neutralized state will be briefly discussed below.
(1) The 1st Stage: Neutralization Preparation
It is desirable that the ROK and the DPRK be normalized by concluding a basic treaty by confirming existing inter-Korean agreements. The ROK and the DPRK should recognize each
other as an independent, sovereign state and reaffirm inviolability of the territorial boundary drawn by the Korean Armistice Agreement of July 27, 1953 until the conclusion of a Korean peninsula peace treaty. A permanent mission in each other’s capital will be established with a normalization of inter-Korean relations. They shall resolve their disputes by peaceful means, respecting the Charter of the United Nations by refraining from threat or use of force. They shall sincerely observe the inter-Korean agreements of the July 4 joint declaration, the 1992 inter-Korean basic agreement, the June 15, 2000 joint declaration and the October 4, 2007 joint statement for promoting mutual confidence-building and a peaceful coexistence.
The author has proposed that the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement needs to be replaced by a peace treaty signed by the four parties concerned (the U.S., China, and the two Koreas). Four peace agreements must be included in a Korean peninsula peace treaty: a U.S.-DPRK peace agreement, a South-North peace agreement, a U.S.-China peace agreement, and a China-ROK peace agreement (Kwak, 2010a). Without concluding a peace treaty to end the Korean War, it is meaningless to discuss a unification issue through neutralization. The peace-regime building on the Korean peninsula, along with the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, is a top agenda item to be discussed at the four-party talks in the near future.
(2) The 2nd Stage: Inter-Korean Neutralization-Unification Formula Agreement
The ROK and the DPRK should agree to declare neutralization regime building on the Korean peninsula, and then they need to adopt a South-North joint agreement for a neutralization-unification formula. The ROK and the DPRK would appear to have many difficulties in agreeing on a common unification formula based on the DFRK and KNC formulae. The fusion of the North’s unification formula and the South’s plan is more difficult to be achieved than an agreement on the neutralization-unification formula. The two Koreas need to have political will to agree on the neutralization roadmap.
A neutralization agreement between the ROK and the DPRK, including a neutralization declaration will be concluded with a provision setting up an interim de jure joint unification commission titled “The South-North Joint Supreme Unification Council (JSUC).” The JSUC, consisting of equal numbers from the South and the North and appropriate numbers from overseas Koreans, not exceeding two hundred (200) members all together, and the highest joint organ to manage Korean unification procedures, has the following structures and roles.
The JSUC will elect its standing committee members of twenty (20) representing equal numbers of the South and the North with a few members representing overseas Koreans, and has its Secretariat. The JSUC will be in charge of establishing institutional arrangements for establishing the United Republic of Corea (the URC), preparing for the URC constitution, designing a new national flag, composing a new national anthem, and designating a new capital for the URC.
The JSUC will establish a Joint Arms Control and Disarmament Commission to reappraise and adjust the armed forces for the neutralized URC and a Joint Military Command Structure to present a united front to any foreign intervention. The JSUC will be in charge of negotiating at any time with any foreign countries concerned and international organizations for achieving a peaceful unification through neutralization. At this stage, it is expected that an inter-Korean economic community will be established through interim stages of confederation and possibly federation as specified in June 15 (2000) joint statement. There are still two states, two systems and two governments on the Korean peninsula. An inter-Korean confederation will be set at this stage.
(3) The 3rd Stage: International Neutralization Treaty
Korean unification through neutralization could not be achieved without international cooperation because the four powers’ interests intersect on the Korean peninsula. The four
Powers (the U.S., China, Russia and Japan) will conclude a neutralization treaty with the two Koreas and later the URC, recognizing its permanent neutrality status and its non-alignment policy. The treaty endorsed by the United Nations will be registered at the UN Secretariat. The four powers will guarantee a neutralized Korean peninsula. The treaty should be registered at UN Secretariat and it should be endorsed by the United Nations. This stage may be in an inter-Korean federal status.
(4) The 4th Stage: Neutralization Constitution
The two Koreas will draft and adopt a neutralization constitution which will be approved by the Korean people, and then general elections will be prepared in the entire Korean peninsula according to the new constitution for constructing unified one Korea: one state, one system and one government.
(5) The 5th Stage: General Elections/One Korea
There will be general, democratic elections in the entire Korean peninsula to establish one Korean state. A neutralized, denuclearized, unified Korean state will be born through general election. The name of a new unified, neutralized Korea will be the United
Republic of Corea (the URC) founded on a Korean traditional ideology of Hongik Tongil and peace, liberal democracy, human rights and market economy. The URC, denouncing war,
recognizing a peaceful settlement of any international disputes and declaring a permanent
neutrality, will preserve and ensure its independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, sincerely carrying out its obligations of neutrality. The URC, a member of the United Nations, will be a peaceful, non-aligned, neutralized state which is defensive and armed, defending its
independence and territorial integrity against attack by any foreign country with all available
means. Neutrality is an obligation of the state, not of the individual citizen, therefore citizens
have no obligation to remain neutral; they may freely express their own opinions.
The URC and the four powers will establish three enforcement machineries: a Peace
Observer Team, an International Tribunal, and a Board of Guarantors, each consisting of five
members - one from each country to guarantee the permanent neutrality of the URC. The Peace Observer Team will investigate and verify any violations of the neutrality law and submit its
report to the International Tribunal. The International Tribunal will render its judgments on the
findings from the Peace Observer Team and send its recommendations to the Board of
Guarantors, which will implement the recommendations from the International Tribunal with all available means, and it may even resort to the armed forces of the member states to defend the
permanent neutrality of the URC. These machineries will be dissolved when the permanent neutrality is firmly established.
The five-stage neutralization-unification formula in
provides a roadmap for building one Korean state on the Korean peninsula.
Specific Action Plan for a Five-Stage Neutralization-Unification Formula
The realization of the five-stage Korean unification through neutralization requires the political will of the two Korean top leaders and many years of research and preparation. Now is the time for the Korean people to seriously engage in research on the neutralization-unification formula. The ROK and the DPRK must take the initiative to persuade the Korean people and the four major powers to accept a neutralized unification formula to construct a unified one Korean state.
Seoul and Pyongyang need to begin building mutual trust, first ceasing their arms race, avoiding military confrontation, and gradually engaging in military-security confidence building between the two Koreas. The two Koreas need to engage in improving inter-Korean relations by reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula and eventually constructing an inter-Korean economic community. It will take a long time for the two Korean states to conclude a neutralization treaty with the four major powers, and the Korean people must be patient and vigilant with political will to establish a neutralized, unified Korea. One must understand that there is a long, difficult road ahead to achieve a neutralized, unified Korean peninsula.
We have evaluated current unification formulae of the two Koreas, which are unacceptable by both sides, and proposed a neutralization-unification formula as an alternative to the two Koreas’ existing formulae. The rationale for neutralization on the Korean peninsula has been provided and a five-stage unification formula through neutralization has been proposed for further research.
The DPRK’s nuclear issue has been a key obstacle to the peace process on the Korean peninsula, and its denuclearization process has been long stalled since its long-range rocket launch on 5 April, 2009. Pyongyang reactivated its nuclear facilities and conducted nuclear tests, violating the 19 September, 2005, joint agreement. To resume the long-stalled Six-Party Talks, the U.S. and the DPRK produced the 29 February 2012 agreement. Again, Pyongyang violated U.N. Resolutions 1718 and 1874 and the 29 February agreement by launching a satellite using a three-stage rocket on 13 April and 12 December, 2012. The UN Security Council unanimously passed the Resolution 2087 on 22 January 2013. The DPRK viciously reacted in words, declaring its intention to abandon the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. The DPRK conducted its third nuclear test on 12 February, 2013. As a result, a new crisis on the Korean peninsula arose in the spring of 2013. But with the resumption of the long-stalled Six-Party Talks under China’s mediation, it is expected that the denuclearization process on the Korean peninsula will be restarted in the near future.
The DPRK’s amended constitution is now referred to as the “Kim Il Sung-Kim Jong Il Constitution.” The preamble credits Kim Jong Il with turning “our motherland into an ever-victorious power of political thought, a nuclear power and an invincible military power and opened a great, brilliant path to the construction of a powerful and prosperous nation.” Whether the DPRK will resume the denuclearization process, thus abandoning a nuclear power status, remains to be seen.
The road to a unified Korea through neutralization will be long, rough, and difficult, but the Korean unification process has already begun. In the short-term, the denuclearization and peace-regime-building processes on the Korean peninsula should be pursued simultaneously. The unification process will be accelerated with the denuclearization and peace-regime-building processes on the Korean peninsula. The Korean people as key players must work together for a unified Korean peninsula and persuade major powers to support a neutralized, unified Korea, which will be in their best interests. Once again, the Korean people must understand that their firm determination will eventually build a new, neutralized and advanced welfare state through neutralization with full support and cooperation of the four major powers.
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