When Freedom Is Prioritized Over Peace in Korean Reunification
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When Freedom Is Prioritized Over Peace in Korean Reunification


APLN Vice Chair Chung-in Moon writes for The Hankyoreh on how North and South Korea can move toward an amicable and friendly relationship, setting the stage for a peaceful reunification through consensus.

Two hot topics of late among Korea watchers both here and abroad are whether North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has reached a strategic decision about going to war with South Korea and what is signified by his narrative about South and North being two separate states. Regarding the former question, a consensus is forming that an undesired military clash might lead to escalation, but that North Korea is unlikely to plan and execute an all-out war. But as for the second question, academics are divided about whether Kim’s “two states” narrative represents an aggressive tactical response, or a defensive structural transition.

In my view, Pyongyang’s recent actions indicate that a structural transition is underway. Traditionally, North Korea’s unification policy has rested on two pillars. The first pillar was the proposal for a low-level federation — a federation characterized by one people and one state, but two regional governments and two systems. The second pillar was a “united front” strategy that sought to bring about a “revolution of democracy and national liberation on a national scale” that would obviously include South Korea.

A particularly serious threat for South Korea was North Korea’s united front strategy (or stratagem) for strengthening revolutionary capacity in three areas (North Korea, South Korea and the international community) so as to build an underground party organization inside South Korea that could eventually pull off a communist revolution. That’s why even progressive administrations in South Korea have found themselves unable to scrap the National Security Act.

In a plenary session of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) at the end of 2023, Kim Jong-un defined inter-Korean relations as “the relations between two states hostile to each other.”

Then during a session of the Supreme People’s Assembly on Jan. 15, Kim went on to say that North Korea should “completely eliminate such concepts as ‘reunification,’ ‘reconciliation’ and ‘fellow countrymen’ from the national history of our Republic.”

Kim’s remarks signified both the total repudiation of the “special interim relationship stemming from the process toward reunification” to which South and North Korea had agreed in the Inter-Korean Basic Agreement and the complete rejection of the plan for reunification through a federation based on the idea of “one Korea,” which had been advocated by Kim’s father and grandfather. That erodes the deference to the will of deceased leaders that has been one of the main characteristics of the North Korean system of government.

The full article can be accessed on the Hankyoreh website here.

Image: iStock/Mieszko9

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