Unification of the Korea Peninsula – Not If, but When
December 2, 2014
On November 13, 2014 KEI President & CEO Donald Manzullo provided the keynote speech at the 2014 National Unification Advisory Council conference held in Washington, DC.
Below is his full speech:
Mr. Hyun Kyung-dae , Mr. William Won-Kyun Hwang , Congressman Mike Honda, Congressman Charlie Rangel, distinguished guests and participants, I thank you for this opportunity to share with you some thoughts about the Republic of Korea and the inexorable and inevitable goal of unification of the Peninsula. I say inexorable and inevitable to emphasize that unification is not an issue as to whether it will occur, but when it will occur and under what circumstances.
A country involuntarily severed by a WWII agreement among the victorious allied powers still remains a country involuntarily severed. The passing of time does not make the artificial division of the Korean peninsula any more natural or acceptable.
Korea remains a distinct and resilient nation. For hundreds of years, under ancient Korean dynasties, Korea focused on unity and largely achieved it. However, during the last century, Korea’s history is one of colonization, civil war and military coups. Korea has learned the hard lessons of accommodation necessary for unification. At one time she had to choose between academic learning and global commerce. Today, that is no longer necessary. Difficult times make for durable souls, and Korea is no exception.
The word “unification” is interesting: the English dictionary says it is the process of being united or made into a whole. Reunification means “back to an original state, place or condition.” The Korean Ministry of Unification – not Reunification – recognizes this distinction; so does your organization, The National Unification Advisory Council. The word “unification” means an on-going process involving all the people of the Korean Peninsula, implying the people of Korea have never been separated in spirit, though in body, and the process of unification is connecting the body with the spirit. The word “reunification”, however, implies a complete severance has occurred at one time.
Thus the goal of unification is simple: to recognize that which already exists and to work toward the process of the completion of Korea’s national identity.
That is why unification is inevitable. The spirit is crying for its body, and the body is crying for its spirit.
Unfortunately, many surveys among the young in the Republic of Korea demonstrate the lack of interest for unification.
According to research by Seoul National University, in 1994, 92% of South Koreans considered unification "necessary"; by 2007 that had fallen to 64%. Support is even lower among the young, with a survey conducted by the government in 2010 showing only 57% of teenagers were interested in unification, a 14 point drop in 13 years. Among teenagers, it appears the percentage of those interested in unification drops by a percentage point each year.
One 2013 European article with the chilling title, The Dream of Reunification Fades in South Korea, referenced another survey showing only 25% of South Koreans firmly support unification, but 65% support it if huge costs and social upheaval can be avoided
This is why it is important to educate not only the people of the Republic of Korea on the inevitability of unification, but the world as a whole. When inevitability is assumed, the focus shifts from not if, but when and how.
You are not truly free if your brother is living in slavery.
You are not truly satisfied if your brother is hungry.
You are not a fulfilled person if your brother’s life is counted as insignificant.
Your body can never rest if it is separated from your spirit.
Yet time in Korea unfortunately is working against unification. Time serves as another method to keep the body from full unity with the spirit.
That’s why it is important to do what you are doing here today: South Koreans and the entire world must be reminded of the need for unification in Korea.
President Park Geun-hye’s Actions
President Park Geun-hye’s Ministry of Unification labors incessantly to continue the process of unification through the following:
(1) Normalizing inter-Korean relations through a trust building process. It’s not just a euphemism, but it involves programs aimed at the very soul of the North Korean people to resolve humanitarian issues, adhere to existing agreements, create dialogue channels, and promote reciprocal inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation.
(2) Preparing for Unification by improving customized programs for North Korean refugees’ resettlement. This is about education, medical assistance, and building a Cultural Center for North Korean Refugees to serve as a communication hub. It’s about launching a 1.5
track consultative group cooperating with other countries with similar experiences. We see already the Republic of Korea and Germany launching a unification advisory panel, with their first meeting just a few weeks ago. The Dresden declaration, announced in Germany last March, calls for more humanitarian assistance, and we see the Ministry developing new divisions and reorganizing to accomplish that. And, we see the Visegrad Group of former Soviet satellite nations consulting with RoK on their unification methods. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia met with the Republic of Korea in the V4+RoK talks on July 17, 2014 in Bratislava.
(3) Achieving Unification through building a foundation that ensures everyone’s happiness. This is addressed by creating a green community for research in the DMZ; launching the Vision Korea Project to develop industrial infrastructure, such as roads, railways, electricity, and information communication; and building a consensus on how to launch a Unification Plan for One National Community.
Unification is not easy. Witness KEI’s Clare Hubbard in her paper on the social assimilation of North Korean refugees into South Korea. Referencing Grace Lee and Jae-jean Suh , Hubbard makes this statement: “While North Koreans have difficulties adjusting to the social and cultural climate of South Korea, they have almost no difficulty in adapting to political ideology. North Korean Juche ideology, literally translated, ‘self reliance’, but more commonly known as the political theses developed by Kim Il-sung, stating that the Koreas are the masters of the country’s development, is drilled into the minds of the North Koreans, but was not found to be one of the socio-cultural aspects that defectors held on to upon their arrival in South Korea.”
Wow! Maybe it’s because they were defectors and didn’t believe this philosophy in the first place, or maybe when they saw what happens in South Korea because of freedom, they rejected this indoctrination, but in any case, what was drilled into their heads is not a political problem in adaptation.
Advantages of Unification
President Park Geun-hye calls it a “bonanza,” a spectacular windfall for Korea, not a burden. She is very careful not to use the term bonanza just in reference to the South, but a bonanza to all Koreans: that is significant, because the process of unification is not to punish the North with spoils going to the South, but to help and lift up all Koreans.
Unification is nothing to be feared. The goal is to make unification a natural and consensual process: a soft landing, with gradual unification, supported by a world-wide interest. It is obviously much easier to deal with difficult issues over a prolonged period of time. Rushed decisions are often far removed from their desired conclusion. Believing unification is inevitable makes the how a lot easier, and places the emphasis not on speculation of its occurrence but
on the manner of implementing it. The Park administration and National Assembly are way out front on extensive planning on the manner of how unification will take place and the response thereto.
Benefits of Unification
1. The first benefit is the most obvious: freedom and disappearance of North Korea’s brutal and odious regime, which is the source of abuse of human rights. A unified Korea will live in freedom. Period.
2. Extra young workers would replace the need for workers from South East Asia. Manufacturers and others could look to people living on the peninsula to fill these jobs. North Korea has a younger population than South Korea, and has higher fertility rates. This could help solve the long term problems of a rapidly aging population and workforce replacement.
3. There would be huge gains in the mining sectors. South Korea has a scarcity of minerals. North Korea is loaded with coal, uranium, and rare earth minerals. South Korea could utilize its technologies to mine and use these minerals. There is a world- wide shortage of rare earth minerals. They are used in missile guidance systems, wind turbines, x-ray machines, cell phones, microwave filters, spark plugs, computer memories, alloys, scan detectors, LED light bulbs, electric motors, and hybrid vehicles. The value of these minerals could be in the billions. And, rare earths are associated with the highest level of manufacturing technology.
4. A united Korea could have a newly expanded domestic market and an increase in tourism. The DMZ would be gone; trade would get easier. A unified Korea could emerge as a consuming industrial powerhouse.
This will not be easy. It will be difficult.
But let me ask you a question: When have the South Koreans ever backed away from a challenge?
Did they back away from refusing to surrender their identity during the Japanese occupation?
Did they back away from the invasion from the North, fighting nearly to the end until the Americans and others came?
Did they back away from the outlandish dream of becoming a world power and leader in manufacturing, when they had few minerals and little history of manufacturing?
Did they back away from the ambitious statement that South Korea could build ships, when Chung Ju-Yung , with no shipbuilding experience, no shipyard, no money, convinced investors to order a ship from him? And when asked if Koreans had experience building ships, he
reminded the investors that Admiral Yi Soon Shin built the turtle ship, the world’s first iron clad ship, and sank the Japanese fleet, just a few years earlier – in1597!
Did the South Koreans really think that their war- ravaged country, in rubbles, at the end of the Korean conflict, with a handful of PhD’s, a per capita income lower than those of Haiti, Ethiopia, Yemen and North Korea itself, could become a world leader, especially in light of statements such as that penned by John Caldell, who in 1955 described Korea as “a land of misery and chaos, and a nation unable to help itself because it has no voice in any major decisions affecting its future”?
How did Korean students, in a little over five decades, rank number one in math among the most industrialized countries?
How did Korea become the 5th largest exporter of machine tools in the world?
How did Korea become the second largest manufacturer of semi conductors?
How did Korea become the largest shipbuilder?
How did Korea capture 7% of America’s domestic auto market?
How did Korea become the world’s 12th largest economy?
Koreans have always met their vision, no matter how hard the task.
Republic of Korea’s Founding Documents
Their documents witness that triumph.
The March 1, 1919 Declaration of Independence [from Japanese occupation], was signed by 33 national representatives, all of whom were leaders from various religious faiths. Some important assertions occur in the Declaration:
“We hereby declare Korea as an independent state and its people as free.
“If we are to wash off yesterday’s rancor, if we are to shed today’s agony, if we are to abolish tomorrow’s menace, if we are to eagerly broaden our shrunken national conscience and state pride, if we are to achieve natural development of individual character, if we are to keep our poor children from inheriting anguish and shame, if we are to bestow everlasting blessings on our descendants – then our first duty is to secure the independence of our nation. …Korean independence will be an indispensable step toward the stability of East Asia as well as be a part of world peace and human happiness.
“A new spring has come, hastening the rebirth of every living thing. While we held our breath in the ice and snow, our pulse now stirs in the warm breeze and sunshine. The fortune of heaven and earth has returned to us and we ride the changing tide of the world. …We hereby rise up! …To begin is to succeed. We only need to march in the light!”
That rugged spirit of independence and unity of the Peninsula carried into The Constitution of the Republic of Korea. It recognizes the March 1st Declaration and pleads for unification: “Having assumed the mission of democratic reform and peaceful Unification of our homeland and having determined to consolidate National unity with justice, humanitarianism and brotherly love.…The territory of the Republic of Korea shall consist of the Korean peninsula and its adjacent islands. … The Republic of Korea shall seek unification and shall formulate and carry out a policy of peaceful unification, based on the principles of freedom and democracy.”
Korean children sing their anthem frequently, stating the hope of unification. The third verse reads: “Autumn sky is void and vast, high and cloudless, the bright moon is our heart, undivided and true.” The refrain expresses how it will be done: “Three thousand Li of splendid rivers and mountains, filled with Roses of Sharon; Great Korean People, stay true to the Great Korean Way.”
The Great Korean Way is that Koreans don’t know the meaning of the word “no.”
Ambassador Ahn tells the story of talking to three students. He asked the question, “How is it that Korean students excel in academics?”
One student said, “Perhaps it’s because we were taught that by our parents.”
A second student said, “Perhaps we have learned that the road to success depends on our excellence in studies.”
A third student said, “Mr. Ambassador, perhaps it’s simply because we are Koreans.”