About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korea’s President on Thursday promised to open the door to a “new Korean peninsula” through achieving a peace economy and working to “solidify” efforts towards North Korea’s denuclearization.
In a speech marking the 74th anniversary of the end of Japanese rule in Korea, Moon Jae-in reiterated Seoul’s goal of establishing peaceful economic cooperation with the North and completing the country’s liberation through the unification of the peninsula.
“As we commemorate the Liberation Day today, I pledge to solidify denuclearization and peace regime on the Korean Peninsula during my term in office,” Moon told an audience at the Independence Hall of Korea in Cheonan.
“I will initiate the peace economy upon this foundation and move toward unification.”
The Moon Jae-in administration has since its inauguration in 2017 pushed the “peace economy” concept as a cornerstone of its North Korea policy, arguing that improving relations with Pyongyang will lead to renewed economic prosperity.
In its five-year plan unveiled in July 2017, the government promised to lay the foundations for economic unification by restarting inter-Korean cooperation and seeking a single market for Seoul and Pyongyang.
“Unification will beckon as stark reality before us someday,” President Moon said Thursday, emphasizing that peace and unification will lead to “enormous economic benefits” for both Koreas.
Seoul must “transform the Korean people’s energy into a driving force for future prosperity” by overcoming the division of the peninsula, he said.
“We will create new economic growth engines through the peace economy. We can no longer afford to let division consume our capacities,” Moon argued. “We will open the door to a new Korean peninsula by pouring all we have into the peace economy.”
This goal, he said, can be achieved when the two Koreas work together and “commit themselves to deciding the fate of the Korean peninsula.”
“When we overcome division, our liberation will finally be completed and Korea will become a country that cannot be shaken.”
The South Korean President committed to advancing inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation so that the “seeds sown together with North Korea in the spring of peace will grow into trees of prosperity.”
As part of the outcomes, Moon pledged to build a foundation for the two Koreas to jointly-host the Summer Olympics in 2032 and “stand tall in the world as one Korea by achieving peace and unification by 2045.”
In a speech that follows weeks of renewed weapons testing by North Korea, the South Korean President said the planned peace economy would “begin with the efforts to continue dialogue and cooperation.”
North Korea must “choose economic prosperity over nuclear program upon the foundation of complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” he said, stressing that his North Korea policy does not aim to “unilaterally assist North Korea.”
“Rather, our intention is to promote mutual benefits for both Koreas and prosper together while guaranteeing the security of our respective regimes,” Moon argued. “The plan is for the two Koreas to contribute to the development of the global economy.”
North Korea, he claimed, “has also shifted its national policy toward concentrating all of its efforts on economic development and is in the process of adopting market economy” — a likely reference to Kim Jong Un’s new strategic line first unveiled in April last year.
“New markets and opportunities will open up for both South and North Korean businesses” through peace and unification, Moon said, and the two Koreas will be able to reduce defense spending and other “invisible costs of the division.”
Emphasizing he importance of inter-Korean cooperation has been a key theme of many of Moon’s major speeches: March saw the President announce his plans to establish a “new community of economic cooperation” between Seoul and Pyongyang.
Repeating claims made during a previous speech earlier in the month, Moon also Thursday said peace and unification between the two Koreas would serve as a way to overtake Japan and guide it towards a more cooperative order in East Asia.
This is the “royal road to becoming a responsible economic power,” he added.
NUCLEAR NEGOTIATIONS AT A “CRITICAL JUNCTURE”
In his speech, Moon called on the two Koreas and the U.S. to resume working-level talks “at the earliest possible time,” saying the concerned parties are at a critical period.
“This will probably constitute the most critical juncture in the entire process of achieving denuclearization and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula,” the President said, warning that “making dialogue difficult by spoiling the mood or erecting barriers is by no means a desirable course of action.”
“If there is dissatisfaction, it too should be raised and discussed at the negotiating table,” he continued. “When we pass this hurdle, denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will move closer and inter-Korean relations will also make significant strides.”
The atmosphere for dialogue remains unshaken in spite of “a series of worrying actions taken by North Korea recently,” Moon said.
This is a “result” of the peace process on the Korean peninsula that his government has pushed forward, he continued, saying that the situation has “changed” compared to the past.
The South Korean President also criticized those who were skeptical of efforts towards dialogue and peace on the peninsula.
“The United States is continuing dialogue with North Korea without derailing while Japan is also seeking talks with Pyongyang,” he said. “I hope these skeptics won’t remain prisoners to ideology.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House