Dream of Korean Reunification
North Korea and South Korea are two independent states living on the same land called “Korean Peninsula”. These two states were united since the Silla Dynasty on seventh century (Hoare, 2012). Two states with the same mother language and ethnic, North South Korea however have been having rough past on living in such same land with similarities. The fact is that history already made two states struggled on surviving in an international world by the impacts of other countries. History already made North Korea and South Korea realize that their similarities could not rule out the possibilities that they would take different path that will determine how the countries will develop themselves. In the cases of North and South Korea, these two nations already coexisted with tensions overwhelming each other. However, the future of their relationship cannot be determined by tracing back to history alone. The dreams, hopes and efforts by these countries could lead to what they call peace.
Tracing back to South Korea and North Korea history on World War II, Allies won and the representative from the United States, the Soviet Union, and China held the Cairo Conference on 1943 to discuss the sanctions to Japan. Japan should lose all territories it had conquered by force like Korea. However, USA and the Soviet Union wanted to occupy the whole Korea which leads to the division of Korea at 1945. In the first place, the Allies wanted to lead up to Korea’s independence, but due to the increase of Cold War antagonism, the USA occupied South Korea and the Soviet Union occupied the North Korea, having influenced with different cultures and form of government (Robinson, 2007). The impact of those Allies countries affected how different the two states of Korea would be in the future. The wartime allies could not agree on the future of Korea, but the breakdown in their negotiations led eventually to the emergence of two separate states in 1948, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) (Hoare, 2012). Around 1950, North Korea launched an all-out attack in an attempt to unify with South Korea which sparked the Korean War, leaving two Korean states devastated in their people and their economic development. This war ended with both countries still divided but they signed Korean Armistice Agreement (three years later) which made the Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and this is a new border for two countries to accept each territory.
Years passed by, the two Korean states were evolved in different levels. South Korea, embracing its cultural policy, leads the country to be a developed country, while North Korea is an isolated, developing country which increases its military and nuclear weapon ability (already has interest on nuclear since 1963) for their state’s survival. These countries have really poor relations. However, in 1998, South Korean President, Kim Dae Jung, is hoping that the two countries could start building a relationship by restoring lost communication and mitigating the gap between the economic development of each state. So, Kim Dae Jung implemented the Sunshine Policy (reconciliation and economic cooperation that sent billions of dollars in business investments, goods and humanitarian aid to the North), and had the first summit of Korean leaders with Kim Il Sung in 2008 (Robinson, 2007). Thru North-South Joint Declaration 2000, this led to improvements between the two states’ relationships and a hope for reunification in the future. The next South Korean President, Roh Moo Hyun, continued Sunshine Policy since 2002, but in 2003, he heard issues regarding the North Korea Nuclear Program. He still committed himself to the policy by trying to hold summits with North Korea in 2007 for their future reunification (BBC, 2007). Unfortunately, Sunshine Policy was no longer implemented by the next South Korean leaders because of an incident at Yellow Sea 8 years ago (ROKS Ship sank caused by North torpedo attack). It started tensions between the two countries by South Korea cutting all trades with North Korea as part of theirs measures at striking back at North Korea diplomatically and financially, and it continues in the administration of Park Geun Hye who assumed office in 2012. Around 2011, the North Korean administration under Kim Jong U suggests imminent nuclear attacks against South Korea, Japan, and the United States.
Lately, when Moon Jae-in became the president of South Korea in 2017, he is willing to return the Sunshine Policy as a strategy to make “peace” in order to decrease the tension between the Korean countries and to work towards denuclearization in the Korean Peninsula. It happened at the 2018 Inter-Korean summit and set an agreement known as the Panmunjom Declaration (The Strait Times, 2018). However, it is still unclear whether the two countries will reach the real reunification or not. From Zachary’s research on most of the Korean people’s opinion about the reunification (2014), he found out that most of the young Korean people are not in favor to the idea of their country to reunify with North Korea because South Korea is already developed by their cultural policy that increased their economic development, while North is still a developing country and has so many differences with the South, so the idea of reunification wouldn’t really work out, while most of old Korean people like the idea of the two countries reunified because they wanted to have one Korea (Zachary, 2014).
From these explanations, it can be concluded that North Korea and South Korea have long history from being one to being separated. It was really a long time for each Korean state to build their country with different system and ideologies. The interstate conflict that took years made the Korean states differ from each other rather than be similar. The Korean states’ differences made it almost impossible for North Korea and South Korea to reunite. Talking about the reunification itself, North Korea and South Korea already made remarkable progress by agreeing on Panmunjom Declaration to make peace between themselves. Our group also concluded that such “dream reunification” doesn’t have to make the Korean states completely reunited into one country system. Making peace between the Korean nations indicates that the lost hope of reuniting North and South Korea is once again starting to revive, and sooner or later, the North and South Korean nations will once again become Korean Peninsula.
BBC, 2007. “Korean Leaders in Historic Talks” [online] In: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7023079.stm [Accessed July 10th 2018]
Hoare, James. 2012. “The Essential Guide to Customs and Culture: Korea”. Kuperard.
Robinson, Michael E., 2007. Korea’s Twentieth-Century Odyssey. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. pp. 108–109.
The Strait Times, 2018. “Location of planned inter-Korean summit hints at changes in North Korea strategy, say experts” [online] In: https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/east-asia/location-of-planned-inter-korean-summit-hints-at-changes-in-north-korea-strategy-say [Accessed July 10th 2018]
Zachary, Keck. 2014. “South Koreans View North Korea as Cooperative Partner” [online] https://thediplomat.com/2014/05/south-koreans-view-north-korea-as-cooperative-partner/ [Accessed July 10th 2018]
Team 6 Asia Student Summit 2018 Batch 1
1. Rheza Faisal Aristiawan
2. Kurt Ivan S. Angeles
3. Nur Syafiqah Mohd Afandi
4. Oktavia Dea Monika
5. Amalia Iswandini
6. Siti Rania Azzahra Vitri
7. Anna Goretty
8. Parmanita Hesti Puspitorini
9. Dwijaya Shaviola