The opportunity to repair relations between South Korea and North Korea has reopened after Moon Jae-in of the Democratic Party of Korea won the South Korean presidential election.
Moon Jae-in and the party he leads have a different approach to relations with North Korea than his predecessor, Park Geun-hye of the conservative Saenuri Party, according to Secretary General of the Indonesian-Korean Friendship Association, Teguh Santosa to netralnews.com on Saturday (5/13).
Teguh, who is also a lecturer of East Asian politics at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University (UIN), said the approach taken by Moon Jae-in and the former Democratic Political Alliance for Democracy on the North Korean issue is more or less the same as the approach of two previous Korean presidents, Kim Dae-jung (1998-2003) and Roh Moo-hyun (2003-2008).
When in power, Kim Dae-jung did not hesitate to visit Pyongyang and meet with North Korea’s highest leader at the time, Kim Jong Il, who is the father of North Korea’s current highest leader, Kim Jong Un.
At the meeting, the two signed an agreement known later as the North-South Joint Declaration signed on 15 June 2000.
“The declaration specifically addressed the opportunities for the reunification of the two countries. North Korea offered federations at a low level, while South Korea offered federate state form. Both of these alternatives were agreed as the direction of future reunification talks, “said Teguh Santosa.
The North-South Joint Declaration of June 15, still said by Teguh, was imbued by a joint statement signed on 4 July 1972.
“In that era, leaders of South Korea and North Korea agreed that unification or reunification talks should be conducted through an independent Korean effort, without the involvement of foreign powers,” Teguh continued.
North Korea was led by Kim Il Sung, while South Korea was led by Park Chng-hee who was the father of former South Korean president Park Geun-hye.
After the June 15 North-South Joint Declaration, the two Koreas agreed to work on the Kaesong industrial estate project in North Korea. In the region, South Korean companies operated, while their workers were from North Korea.
But this good relationship stalled after North Korea withdrew from the Six Party Talk in 2009. South Korea was led by Lee Myung-bak from conservative Saenuri party. North Korea felt that the peace talks need not proceed because at the same time South Korea and the United States continued to put pressure on them through various means, including war games in the border region.
“I hope leaders in both countries are willing to set aside the things that have been hindering peace talks on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea wants the reunification talks to be carried out only by Koreans without involving external power, including the United States. While South Korea asks North Korea not to increase its nuclear capacity, “Teguh explained.
The role of the United States and China
According to Teguh, the real tension in the East Asia region is now more triggered by the economic and military revival of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). For the United States, China is a clear threat in sight, and has a great opportunity to steal domination in East Asia and the Pacific.
From this perspective, the United States seems to also consider a more friendly move with North Korea in order to minimize China’s dominance in East Asia.
“But for this, the United States certainly needs to consider carefully the wishes of North Korea. If indeed it wants to strengthen its base in East Asia in order to face China, the United States needs to develop a different approach, “said Teguh.
He said the unpredictable United States President Donald Trump seemed to think about it too. Trump’s recent statements, though still vague and need to be read more closely, seem to be regarded as markers in a more friendly direction.
“It’s a bit wingy, but I think the statement that Trump is honored to meet Kim Jong Un and also his praise on Kim Jong Un as a successful young leader, we should consider again as a marker of a new landscape of East Asian politics,” said Teguh Santosa.