By JAEHAN PARK
WASHINGTON — The world is in turmoil, from the eastern edge of Europe and the Middle East to disputed waters in Asia. The importance of inter-Korean affairs has been dwarfed by the global media and leaders preoccupied with these issues. However, reunification of the Korean Peninsula is indeed a global issue as much as it is a national one.
With its pivotal location bridging the Pacific and Eurasia, only a unified and strong Korea will be able to help the United States broker peace in the Far East amid intensifying regional rivalry. An anemic global economy will find a breakthrough with the opening of a new market in what would formerly be known as North Korea, and fresh development opportunities and regional economic cooperation could flourish in the absence of security concerns. Finally, liberating some 28 million people from the despotic North Korean regime—which contradicts principles that today’s free world is grounded upon—is one of the major moral imperatives of our time. The humanitarian tragedies of dispersed families, abductees and missing citizens should also be addressed with utmost importance.
Yet very little has been done so far.
Some ascribe the current gridlock to Seoul’s inconsistent policy direction while others blame discord among interested parties, especially Washington and Beijing. Perhaps Pyongyang has the upper hand in perpetuating the status quo thanks to its nuclear program; however, the most important stakeholders involved, namely the Korean people, as well as the entire international community, lack the attention and will to resolve this issue. At the end of the day, it will be our collective determination and action that will bring this tragic division to a close.
I grew up listening to “Reunification, our dearest wish,” one of the most widely known children’s songs in Korea. But reunification is not just a mere wish for the Korean people, but one of the most important geopolitical, economic and moral imperatives of the modern era. It is high time all stakeholders formulate a realistic strategy to integrate the two Koreas.
Jaehan Park is a first-year Korea Studies students based in Washington. Park served in the Republic of Korea Army as an officer before joining SAIS.