Thanks to the dedication of the United Nations and all the member states, many of the world’s problems have been solved, and your efforts toward peace are coming to fruition. I would like to convey my deepest respect and appreciation.
Let me offer my congratulations to Ambassador Tijjani Muhammad Bande on assuming the Presidency of the General Assembly. I am confident that, under his outstanding leadership, the 74th session of the General Assembly will become a catalyst for promoting multilateral cooperation.
The United Nations and the Korean Peninsula share the same goal of “sustaining peace.” I would like to pay tribute to the endeavors of Secretary-General António Guterres to sustain peace through a virtuous cycle of peace and development.
Distinguished President, Secretary-General and representatives from member states,
The commitment of the United Nations to the peace of all people and “Sustainable Development Goals” will certainly bear fruit.
The world is joining forces to help each other in disaster and emergency relief operations as well as in peacekeeping efforts. The United Nations must continue to play a central role in fostering cooperation within the international community.
The Republic of Korea is a country that has benefited immensely from the United Nations. It was liberated from colonial rule in the year of UN’s inception. It was able to overcome the scourge of war with the assistance of the United Nations and the international community. Carrying a sense of responsibility commensurate with the progress it has made, Korea is now working together with the international community to bring about peace and prosperity in East Asia and the whole world.
The Olympic Truce resolution adopted in November 2017 by the United Nations gave a big help to Korea once more. In accordance with the resolution, the joint military exercises between the Republic of Korea and the United States that had been planned for the spring of 2018 were suspended, which helped create an environment that allowed the North Korean Olympic delegation to come to PyeongChang.
The PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, in spite of initial concerns over security, was transformed into a Peace Olympics. It also served as an invaluable opportunity to resume dialogue between the two Koreas. Inter-Korean talks subsequently led to dialogue between the United States and North Korea.
Decisions made by President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un provided the momentum behind the dramatic change in the situation on the Korean Peninsula. Compared to the past in which it took only a few rounds of gunfire to instigate major political unrest, the Korean Peninsula has undergone a distinct change. The negotiating table for peace on the Peninsula still remains accessible. The two Koreas and the United States are setting their sights not only on denuclearization and peace, but also on the economic cooperation that will follow thereafter.
The Republic of Korea intends to create a “peace economy” whereby peace can lead to economic cooperation, which, in turn, will reinforce peace, all working in a virtuous cycle. The examples of how the European Coal and Steel Community and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe had a positive impact on peace and prosperity within Europe present a fine model for us to emulate.
Peace on the Korean Peninsula remains an ongoing challenge, and peace on the Peninsula and in the whole world are inextricably linked to each other. The Republic of Korea will continue dialogue with North Korea and will find and make a way toward complete denuclearization and permanent peace while maintaining cooperation with UN member states.
Distinguished President, Secretary-General and representatives from member states,
Peace can only be created through dialogue. Peace can be considered as genuine when underpinned by agreements and law, and only peace that has been accomplished on the basis of trust will last.
Over the past year and a half, dialogue and negotiations have produced significant results on the Korean Peninsula. Panmunjeom, which used to be a symbol of division, has now become a demilitarized area in which not even a single pistol exists. The two Koreas withdrew guard posts inside the Demilitarized Zone, thereby transforming the DMZ, the very symbol of confrontation, into a peace zone worthy of its name. In the past, unceasing breaches of the Armistice Agreement had raised military tensions and at times escalated the threat of war, but not a single confrontation has occurred since the inter-Korean comprehensive military agreement was signed on September 19 last year.
What I would like to inform you about in particular is the fact that a total of 177 sets of remains have been recovered so far from Arrowhead Ridge, site of the fiercest battle of the Korean War waged between South Korean and UN troops on one side and those of North Korea and China on the other. Besides the remains of South Korean soldiers, those presumed to belong to soldiers from the United States, China, France and the British Commonwealth have also been retrieved. Sixty-six years after the War, three sets of South Korean soldiers’ remains with confirmed identities have been returned to their families. This is a truly rewarding achievement that was made possible by the efforts to build peace.
These efforts have also made it possible for President Trump to become the first sitting American president to cross the Military Demarcation Line and set foot on North Korean soil. The easing of military tensions and solid trust among the leaders of both Koreas and the United States set the stage for a momentous trilateral meeting at Panmunjeom.
President Trump’s action in taking Chairman Kim's hand and stepping over the Military Demarcation Line was, in itself, a declaration of the true beginning of a new era of peace. It was a remarkable step that will go down in the history of peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia. I hope both leaders will take yet another huge step from there.
The principles that I have firmly held on to in the course of resolving issues related to the Korean Peninsula remain unchanged.
The first principle is zero tolerance for war. Korea is still in a state of armistice; the War has yet to come to an end. The tragedy of war should never be repeated on the Korean Peninsula. To this end, we must put an end to the longest-running armistice in human history and achieve a complete end to the War.
The second principle is a mutual security guarantee. South Korea will guarantee the security of North Korea. I hope North Korea will do the same for South Korea. When the security of both sides is assured, it will become possible to accelerate denuclearization and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. At the very least, all hostile acts must be put on hold while the dialogue is ongoing. I hope that the international community will also work together to alleviate the security concerns on the Korean Peninsula.
The third principle is co-prosperity. Peace does not simply mean the absence of conflict. Genuine peace is all about enhancing mutual inclusiveness and interdependence while working together for co-prosperity. A peace economy in which the two Koreas take part will solidify peace on the Peninsula and at the same time contribute to economic development in East Asia and the whole world.
Today, based on these three principles, which are in complete accord with the values upheld by the United Nations, I would like to propose to the United Nations and all the member states the idea of transforming the Demilitarized Zone that cuts across the midriff of the Korean Peninsula into an international peace zone.
The DMZ is a colossal green zone that stretches 250 km from east to west and 4 km from north to south. Its borders define a tragedy spawned by 70 years of military confrontation, but paradoxically, it has become a pristine ecological treasure trove. It has also become a symbolic space steeped in history, which embraces both the tragedy of division as embodied by the Joint Security Area, guard posts and barbed-wire fences as well as the yearning for peace.
The DMZ is the common heritage of humankind and its value must be shared with the whole world. Once peace is established between the two Koreas, I will work together with North Korea to inscribe the DMZ as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If we designate the area connecting Panmunjeom and Gaeseong in North Korea as a Peace and Cooperation District and transform it into a zone where both Koreas and the international community can jointly explore the path to prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, - and if the DMZ comes to house UN offices already stationed in the two Koreas and other international organizations related to peace, ecology and culture and emerge as a center for research on peace, peacekeeping, arms control and trust building - it can become an international peace zone in name as well as substance.
Approximately 380,000 anti-personnel mines are laid in the DMZ, and it is expected to take 15 years for South Korean troops to remove them on their own. However, cooperation with the international community, including the United Nations Mine Action Service, will not only guarantee the transparency and stability of demining operations, but also instantly turn the DMZ into an area of international cooperation.
If North Korea makes sincere efforts to implement denuclearization, the international community should also reciprocate. The establishment of an international peace zone will provide an institutional and realistic guarantee to North Korea’s security. At the same time, South Korea will also be able to gain permanent peace.
Chairman Kim Jong Un and I agreed on the peaceful use of the DMZ, and on-site inspections on the current state of North Korea’s railroads were conducted after the two Koreas embarked on the reconnection of the severed railroads and roads. In addition, the groundbreaking ceremony for their reconnection and modernization has already taken place.
All of these efforts constitute a process that will help solidify the foundation for peace on the Korean Peninsula and also contribute to peace and stability in Northeast Asia. When the DMZ that cuts across the midriff of the Korean Peninsula is turned into a peace zone, the Peninsula will evolve into a bridging nation that connects the continent and the ocean and facilitates peace and prosperity. The vision of an East Asian Railroad Community in which six Northeast Asian countries and the United States take part could also become reality.
Distinguished President, Secretary-General and representatives from countries around the world,
In the aftermath of the Second World War, East Asia has made historically unprecedented progress through close mutual exchanges, division of labor and economic cooperation by overcoming the pain of invasion and colonial rule. The free trade order marked by fair competition has served as its very foundation.
We will be able to make further progress when we cooperate while safeguarding the values of free and fair trade upon the foundation of an earnest self-reflection on past history.
The Republic of Korea intends to expand a people-centered community of mutual prosperity throughout the Korean Peninsula, East Asia and the whole of Asia by working in partnership with our neighbors. The ASEAN-Republic of Korea Commemorative Summit and the Mekong-Korea Summit to be held in Busan, Korea, in November will serve as an opportunity to lay the foundation in this sense.
The Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations and the Paris Agreement on climate change are major tasks that we must achieve through multilateral cooperation.
After formulating our own mechanism for the implementation of sustainable development goals (K-SDGs), we are channeling considerable efforts into their implementation as we had pledged to the international community. We enacted related laws, such as the Sustainable Development Act; the Framework Act on Low Carbon, Green Growth; and the Framework Act on International Development Cooperation, and established a Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development to ensure institutional implementation of the goals.
The Republic of Korea has dispatched 17,000 military personnel for UN peacekeeping operations to date and has stood together with people around the world who suffer from diseases and natural disasters. Korea supports the Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative and the Declaration of Shared Commitments led by Secretary-General António Guterres, and we will assist the virtuous cycle of peace and development by increasing the volume of our Official Development Assistance. In particular, Korea will actively participate in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which will mark its 20th anniversary next year, and the Elsie Initiative for Women in Peace Operations that had been adopted in Vancouver in 2017. We will also host the next Peacekeeping Ministerial in Korea in 2021.
The Republic of Korea will host the second round of the P4G Summit: Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 next year. The second P4G Summit will serve as an opportunity to strengthen the international community’s solidarity for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. I hope that many stakeholders from governments, international organizations, businesses and civil society will take interest and participate.
This year is very special for Korea. One hundred years ago, the Korean people launched the March First Independence Movement against Japan’s colonial rule and established the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea.
After one hundred years, Korea is now leading the efforts to achieve peaceful coexistence and equality based on love for humanity.
Korea will continue to fulfill its responsibility and role in realizing the United Nations’ goals of peace, human rights and sustainable development while standing together with the international community. We will also work together to ensure that the United Nations’ ultimate goals of international peace and security are realized on the Korean Peninsula.
I hope that the international community’s support and cooperation will enable the miracle of swords being turned into plowshares to take place on the Korean Peninsula.