Joint Written Interview with the President DOWNLOAD
Q 1. Stalemate in North Korea-U.S. Dialogue
Despite South Korea's active, aggressive role as a mediator, nuclear diplomacy between North Korea and the U.S. has been deadlocked since the Hanoi summit. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has since demanded that the U.S. come up with a new proposal to salvage the diplomacy by the end of this December. As a man who was behind the two summits between the U.S. and North Korea, do you have any specific plans to put their nuclear diplomacy back on track? What efforts or measures will the South Korean government take in the future to push forward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?
Q1-1. Do you intend to meet North Korean leader Kim again or send a special envoy to North Korea? If so, when do you think that a fourth summit with Kim or sending an envoy to North Korea would be appropriate? (AP, Xinhua and AFP)
ANSWER 1: First and foremost, I want to highlight the fact that, even though there has been no official dialogue between North Korea and the United States since the Hanoi summit, their leaders’ willingness to engage in dialogue has never faded. Proof of this can be seen in the exchange of personal letters between the two leaders. President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un continue to express unwavering trust in each other.
Moreover, both sides have been engaged in dialogue in regard to a third summit. It’s noteworthy that the behind-the-scenes talks have been preceded by the mutual understanding of each other’s position gained through the Hanoi summit. Also underway is dialogue between the South and the North through diverse channels to sustain inter-Korean talks. Dialogue and efforts for dialogue are crucial factors in the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. That’s because complete denuclearization and a permanent peace regime on the Peninsula are tasks that cannot be achieved overnight.
There’s no reason to regard the current situation as a stalemate in the peace process on the Peninsula just because the pace has remained slow. Chairman Kim sent a personal letter to President Trump and also expressed condolences to the South on the passing of former First Lady Lee Hee-ho through First Vice Department Director of the Workers’ Party Central Committee, his sister, Kim Yo Jong. All of this sends a meaningful message. Last week, Chairman Kim reaffirmed his resolve for dialogue at a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which also backs up this analysis.
There has already been considerable headway made in the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, and it is still making steady progress. The resumption of negotiations between North Korea and the United States will take it to the next level. I believe everything has now fallen into place for that to happen.
ANSEWR 1-1: It depends on Chairman Kim Jong Un. I am ready to meet with Chairman Kim at any time. As I explained before on several occasions, my determination remains the same that I am prepared to meet with Chairman Kim in person at any given moment without being restrained by time, place or formalities.
Q 2. Assessment of Hanoi Summit
You have offered to play a mediator role between the United States and North Korea, and ahead of the Hanoi summit, you said that South Korea was willing to ease the burden of the United States by providing economic concessions to North Korea, raising expectations for a deal. Are you feeling responsible for the breakdown of the summit? What do you think of the view that South Korea failed to convey U.S. positions to the North properly, and this is reflected in North Korean state media's ongoing criticism toward the South? (Reuters)
ANSWER 2: The peace process on the Korean Peninsula is literally a process. An unfolding phenomenon should be viewed as part of a process, not as one specific cross-section; this should become the premise.
The first North Korea-United States summit held last year was a historic event in itself and also a historic milestone in terms of related agreements. North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear program completely, and the United States, in return, agreed to put an end to hostile relations with the North, guarantee its security and normalize North Korea-U.S. relations. In accordance with these agreements, the North should scrap its nuclear program, and the United States should provide conducive conditions by taking reciprocal measures. As these steps should be taken reciprocally between them, I proposed to President Trump that the ROK’s role, including inter-Korean economic cooperation, could be fully utilized as corresponding measures to induce the North to take denuclearization steps.
It is not appropriate to define this proposal as economic concessions to North Korea. I’d like to discuss inter-Korean economic cooperation from two perspectives. First, in terms of inter-Korean relations, my Administration seeks coexistence and mutual prosperity between the South and the North. It is not something that can be accomplished by means of unilateral concessions from one side. The pursuit of both Koreas’ economic prosperity is a crucial part in the process of advancing inter-Korean relations. With this understanding as a foundation, I have shared a future vision of various economic aspects with the North Korean side, including the New Economic Map Initiative for the Korean Peninsula. Of course, I understand well the fact that full-fledged economic cooperation will be possible only when peace is settled on the Korean Peninsula together with complete denuclearization.
An improvement in inter-Korean relations and economic cooperation will also be conducive to negotiations for denuclearization. The advancement of inter-Korean ties is a driving force that can speed up denuclearization. History has shown that North Korean nuclear threats diminish when inter-Korean relations are good. Economic exchanges are what it takes to help connect people with people and lives with lives. The more close-knit and stronger economic cooperation becomes, the harder it becomes to regress back to the past confrontational order. Revitalizing inter-Korean economic cooperation will contribute to creating a new cooperative order that can boost peace and prosperity in East Asia beyond the Korean Peninsula.
When assessing the Hanoi summit, I don’t see it as a failure even though an agreement could not be reached. The success of denuclearization and the peace process on the Korean Peninsula cannot be determined by a summit or two. The Hanoi summit served as a chance for both North Korea and the United States to put everything they want on the negotiating table for candid discussions and come to better understand one another. What was discussed at the Hanoi summit will become the basis for the next phase of negotiations. Both sides clearly understand the necessity for dialogue.
Q 3. Kim Jong-un's Commitment to Denuclearization
Following the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February, skepticism has been growing about the North's commitment to denuclearize. Do you think North Korea is willing to give up its nuclear weapons? Has Kim Jong-un ever made explicitly clear to you that he is willing to give up North Korea's existing nuclear weapons without a change in either the South's security alliance with the U.S. or the U.S. military presence in South Korea, Japan, or elsewhere in Asia or the Pacific? (Kyodo and AFP)
ANSWER 3: Chairman Kim Jong Un’s unequivocal resolve is to move from the past to the future by opting for economic development instead of a nuclear arsenal. During the three inter-Korean summits with me, Chairman Kim expressed his intent to finalize a denuclearization process as soon as possible and to concentrate on economic development. Besides, he has never linked denuclearization with the ROK-U.S. alliance or a pullout of the United States Forces Korea. I believe in Chairman Kim’s determination for denuclearization.
Not only myself but other leaders who have met him in person, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, all speak of their trust in Chairman Kim’s promise. Trust can be said to constitute a precondition for dialogue.
Together with the confirmation of North Korea’s determination to achieve denuclearization, it’s important to create an environment where the North can focus on taking relevant steps. Chairman Kim should be helped along the path toward that goal in a way that sustains his commitment to nuclear dismantlement.
In my several talks with Chairman Kim Jong Un, I could sense that he is quite a flexible yet resolute person. For instance, the results of the first inter-Korean summit were announced through a joint press conference broadcast live around the world, which was unprecedented. The original plan was to announce them through a written document such as a joint statement, but I suggested a press conference, considering the historic significance of the summit and its agreements, and Chairman Kim instantly accepted the proposal.
I look forward to Chairman Kim demonstrating this kind of flexible determination during denuclearization negotiations as well, and I believe this can be possible. I think creating a security environment where Chairman Kim can decisively act on nuclear dismantlement without worries is the fastest way to achieve denuclearization diplomatically.
Q4~5. Strategy for Denuclearization Negotiations
Q 4. Since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, South Korea has expressed skepticism about the chances of a big deal that would resolve everything all at once and instead called for smaller "good-enough deals" or "early harvest deals" that could get the process rolling again. But Seoul hasn't provided any specific examples of about how such deals would look. What are the potential deals South Korea has in mind? (AP)
ANSWER 4: North Korea and the United States have already reached an agreement on the ultimate goal of denuclearization talks. In summary, North Korea’s complete denuclearization was to be exchanged for a security guarantee for the North’s regime and an end to their hostile relations. This agreement is still valid.
The task at the current stage is to decide how to implement the promises made to each other: the procedures and sequencing. This has something to do with the level of trust they have in each other. As their hostile relations have persisted for more than 70 years, it will be difficult to cross a sea of mistrust all at once. In addition, this process is inevitable because it is impossible to implement what has been agreed upon between the two sides in one stroke at any given moment.
For this reason, my Administration has put emphasis on the structure of a virtuous cycle between negotiations and trust. It is all about building trust through dialogue and negotiations and, again, enabling that trust to produce positive results of dialogue and negotiations. This is no doubt the quickest and most solid path to achieve denuclearization.
Q 5. You said in your recent speech at the parliament in Sweden that North Korea must substantially show to the international community its commitment to completely dismantling its nuclear weapons and to establishing a peace regime. Can you elaborate what such "action" is?
Q5-1. You also said during a trip to Europe in October last year “if North Korea’s denuclearization action is judged to enter an irreversible phase, its denuclearization should be further facilitated by easing U.N. sanctions.” What's your definition of the irreversible stage? What would be the appropriate level of sanctions if the North actually reaches that irreversible stage? (AP and Yonhap)
ANSWER 5: Last year North Korea dismantled its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri as media from around the world watched. For its part, North Korea has taken the initial step toward complete denuclearization. In addition, the North promised to permanently dismantle its missile engine testing site and launch pad in Dongchang-ri in the presence of experts from the relevant countries. It also revealed its intention to dismantle its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyeon.
All of this should be noted, but I still would like to point out that North Korea must come to the dialogue table at the earliest date possible in order to convince the international community of its willingness for complete nuclear dismantlement. By responding to the U.S. proposal for working-level negotiations, it can also show its determination to denuclearize.
If Pyeongyang leaves behind the passive stance it has adopted following the summit in Hanoi and strives to reach agreements in future negotiations while carrying out past promises, this will help it win the trust of the international community.
ANSWER 5-1: At the Hanoi summit, the complete dismantlement of the Yeongbyeon nuclear complex was discussed. The Yeongbyeon complex is the mainstay of North Korea’s nuclear facilities. If all of the nuclear facilities in the complex, including the plutonium reprocessing facilities and the uranium enrichment facilities, are completely demolished and verified, it would be possible to say that the denuclearization of North Korea has entered an irreversible stage. Although an agreement was not reached last time in Hanoi, I expect that there will be substantive progress if the two sides continue negotiations based on what was discussed in Singapore and Hanoi.
If substantive progress is made in North Korea-U.S. talks and in the denuclearization process, inter-Korean economic cooperation – such as the resumption of operations at the Gaeseong Industrial Complex – will gain momentum. Such progress could also help the international community seek a partial or gradual easing of the U.N. Security Council sanctions.
If the denuclearization negotiations resume in earnest going forward, the key to the negotiations will be to determine what kind of measures that the North will have to complete to say that substantive denuclearization has been achieved – in other words, to regard the North as having entered an irreversible stage. It will be linked to the definition of denuclearization being clarified, upon which an agreement was not reached at the Hanoi summit.
The key is trust. That's why I underscored trust for the sake of peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula in my speech before the Swedish parliament. As the parties have already sought to resolve relevant issues through dialogue, they must engage in dialogue while trusting each other. In particular, North Korea must trust the promise of the international community to ensure its security and a bright future, provided that it abandons its nuclear program. Trust, of course, must be reciprocal.
This is why North Korea has to actively engage in dialogue with the international community, not only through the denuclearization talks with the United States, but also through other bilateral and multilateral discussions. Dialogue will help enhance confidence, and confidence will in turn keep the dialogue going.
It’s also crucial to continue exchange and cooperation projects that were agreed upon by the two Koreas. The implementation of agreements demonstrates the power of trust to create peace.
I will remain committed to working together to help restore trust between North Korea and the international community.
Q 6. Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula
Next year (2020) marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, and many wish for a complete end to the Cold War structure on the Korean Peninsula by June 25 (the day of the war outbreak) of the anniversary year. Please give us an overview of about your road map to peace on the Korean Peninsula that includes North Korea-U.S. denuclearization talks, the declaration of an end to the Korean War, the complete denuclearization and the signing of a peace treaty. What goals do you want to achieve during your term in office for the settlement of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula? You mentioned "peace for the people" and "positive peace that changes everyday life" in your Oslo Forum speech in Norway. What are your specific thoughts on this? (Yonhap)
ANSWER 6: The Korean Peninsula peace process is about dismantling the last vestige of the Cold War rivalry on Earth and – at the same time – is a long journey the leaders of both Koreas and the United States are taking together. The overriding goal is to achieve complete denuclearization through negotiations and establish a permanent peace regime through declaring an end to the War and concluding a peace agreement. Notably, all of this together constitutes a new path that no one has ever taken before. For this reason, we’re doing all we can to make earnest, sincere efforts at every moment and every stage.
I am convinced that this is the right way. The goal we have to reach is also unequivocal. The negotiations by the concerned parties will result in a roadmap that lists the detailed implementation measures needed to achieve the goal as well as a time table.
The Korean Peninsula has been under a state of armistice for over 65 years. Although an atmosphere of reconciliation and cooperation was created thanks to painstaking efforts last year, there’s still a possibility that the everyday lives of our people could be disrupted. Peace at the moment is provisional. With this interim peace now, however, we can clearly see the preciousness of peace once again. For me, the president of the only divided nation on Earth that saw a full-blown Cold War-induced conflict, peace is a historic obligation and a responsibility entrusted to me by the Constitution as well. It will not be possible to accomplish everything during my term in office, but the rivers of peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula are already flowing. Thus, I hope that the flow will make headway to the extent that it cannot be reversed at least before the end of my term.
ANSWER 6-1: Peace on the Korean Peninsula means the dissolution of the world's last remaining Cold War structure and a release from the ever-present threat of war. To this end, we are now making all-out efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and establish a permanent peace regime.
Moreover, the concept of peace has to be further broadened. The Korean Peninsula needs to take the path toward common prosperity as one unified community. It has to move toward not only resolving political and military issues but also toward enriching the lives of all of its members in all aspects of the economy, society and culture. That is "peace for the people."
Efforts to jointly pioneer the future of economic growth and prosperity, to share and enjoy higher cultural values and to cope with disasters and diseases together will help the everyday lives of all the people in both Koreas. If such endeavors are built up, the persistent feelings of antipathy instilled in the hearts of the people due to the long-lasting confrontational order will be eliminated, allowing them to realize the preciousness of peace in their everyday lives.
Q 7. Easing Military Tensions
Last year we have seen easing of military tensions on the peninsula. Recently, the DPRK has made several tests which, however, did not lead to a serious escalation. How do you think the situation will develop in the coming year? What steps is the Republic of Korea going to take? (Tass)
ANSWER 7: The easing of military tension on the Korean Peninsula will be carried out on two tracks: one through denuclearization linked to North Korea-U.S. talks and the other through the alleviation of military tension caused by conventional weapons, a task for both Koreas. Through the Pyeongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018, the two Koreas have taken rudimentary measures to reduce military tension. As of now, in line with that inter-Korean agreement reached in the military domain, both Koreas have completely stopped hostile acts in areas along the Military Demarcation Line, demilitarized the Joint Security Area, withdrawn guards posts from the DMZ, exhumed the remains of war dead and surveyed waterways for the joint use of the Han River estuary.
The inter-Korean agreement in the military domain is particularly important in the process of denuclearization since it dramatically reduces the possibility of an accidental military skirmish between the two Koreas, thereby creating an environment conducive to dialogue concerning denuclearization. It can also be said that, thanks to this agreement, the North's firing of short-range missiles has neither led to a sudden hike in tensions on the Korean Peninsula nor a breakdown of the denuclearization dialogue.
If inter-Korean agreement in the military domain is properly implemented, it will allow us to proceed to the stage of further enhancing transparency concerning military postures by exchanging pertinent information through the inter-Korean joint military committee and observing military drills and training. Furthermore, in line with progress in denuclearization, we will be able to advance to the point of disarming threatening weapons such as the long-range North Korean artillery targeting our capital Seoul and the short-range missiles that both Koreas possess.
Q 8. Inter-Korean Economic Cooperation
Does the South still think trading the resumption of inter-Korean economic projects (Kaesong factory park, Mount Kumkang tours) with the closure of the Yongbyon complex would be a fair exchange that could build trust and momentum for bigger things?
One of the main components of a comprehensive settlement of the situation on the peninsula is inter-Korean relations and cross-border economic projects. Some say that their development is now difficult because of the deadlock in the negotiations between the United States and the DPRK. How do you see the prospects for the further development of such projects? (AP and Tass)
ANSWER 8: I've never contended that the resumption of inter-Korean economic cooperation projects had to be exchanged for the dismantlement of the North’s Yeongbyeon nuclear complex. However, inter-Korean economic cooperation projects, such as the resumption of operations at the Gaeseong Industrial Complex, are appealing to both Koreas and the United States as well in that they could help reduce the burden of the international community, including the United States, and present a look ahead to the kind of bright future that could greet the North should it complete denuclearization. This is why I proposed to President Trump that he actively utilize inter-Korean economic cooperation as one of the corresponding measures to North Korea's substantive denuclearization steps.
For the proper development and elevation of inter-Korean relations, various economic cooperation projects have to ensue. To this end, international economic sanctions must be lifted, and there has to be substantive progress in North Korea's denuclearization before sanctions can be removed.
All the ongoing inter-Korean cooperation projects carried out so far have been done in compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions without a single violation. The Government of the Republic of Korea maintains the direction of its policy that aims to facilitate North Korea-United States dialogue by advancing inter-Korean relations within the framework of sanctions.
In order to continue the long journey to realize complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, it is indeed necessary to flesh out an initiative for mutual prosperity. The Government of the Republic of Korea will endeavor to create such circumstances as quickly as possible.
Q 9. South Korea's Domestic Issues
With political divisions mounting and the ruling party and opposition at loggerheads, do you feel your term in office so far has fulfilled the hopes and aspirations of the candlelight protestors? What about your promises of a change to South Korean politics? What do you know now that you wish you had known when you were sworn in? Whatever happened to chaebol reform? (AFP)
ANSWER 9: All of the achievements of the Republic of Korea have been made by the people’s strength, and the candlelight rallies symbolize that strength. My Administration was launched with the people’s aspiration reflected in the light of those candles. It’s still the driving force that helps my Administration move forward.
Many changes have started to take place and are now underway. At the heart of these changes lie the spirit of popular sovereignty and the value of fairness and justice. Many changes have been achieved in the process of normalizing the law enforcement authorities that used to lord over the people and, moreover, by the anti-corruption reforms that eliminated the deceit and privilege that destroyed the people’s lives as well as other unreasonable practices.
By overcoming the past practices in which social and economic opportunities and benefits were concentrated in the hands of a few people, we are endeavoring to build a country where everyone prospers together. Today, the world’s main interests lie in overcoming structural low growth, economic polarization and inequality. In these aspects, Korea aims to build an innovative, inclusive nation and seek changes in various areas. A case in point is the reform of conglomerates to build a fair economic order.
Conglomerates and large companies in Korea have led Korea’s high economic growth and will continue to play a significant role in its economic growth. What we intend to reform is the opaque and unfair side of the economy resulting from a system dominated by conglomerates. This constitutes making our democracy broader, deeper and more solid by realizing democracy in the economy as well.
The people’s aspirations expressed through the candlelight rallies cannot be realized all at once. However, the Korean Government will continue to devote itself to the tasks and missions given to it until they are completed in the type of democratic and mature manner demonstrated during those nightly rallies.
Q 10. South Korea-Japan Relations
Is the South Korean government considering asking the International Court of Justice to rule on the matter of compensation for Korean victims of forced wartime labor, asking victims' lawyers to postpone seizure of Japanese companies' assets, or forming a foundation? Will you be making any proposal on the issue to Japanese Prime Minister Abe during G-20 summit? (Kyodo)
ANSWER 10: I have repeatedly expressed my thoughts concerning Korea-Japan relations on several occasions. First, Korea-Japan ties are very important, and they should continue to advance in a more forward-looking way. Second, the governments of our two countries have to pool our wisdom to prevent historical issues from damaging forward-looking cooperative relations. In this regard, I don’t believe that the Japanese Government’s position differs from our own.
In order to advance Korea-Japan relations, history issues should not be exploited for domestic political gain. History issues are not of my Government’s own making. Rather, they stem from the unfortunate history that actually existed in the past. Even though Korea and Japan signed treaties, the wounds from the past are surfacing anew as international norms develop and awareness of human rights is enhanced, and, above all, it should be accepted that the victims are still suffering from the pain. At the end of the day, our two countries’ wisdom has to be focused on how to actually heal the victims’ pain.
Recently, the Korean Government came up with a viable solution to the issue of forced labor during World War II and conveyed it to the Japanese Government. As the Government of a democratic nation, we respected the verdict rendered by the Supreme Court in the process of formulating the proposal and compiled the opinion of various groups within the society that have maintained longstanding interest in this issue, including requests from the victims. This is a measure that will help foster reconciliation between the stakeholders and move Korea-Japan relations one step forward.
For my part, the door is always open for dialogue between our two leaders in order to advance Korea-Japan relations, including over the issue mentioned above. Whether we can take advantage of the opportunity presented by the G20 summit depends on Japan.
Q 11. Xi's North Korea Visit
There is some optimism that Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to North Korea will help break the deadlock in the denuclearization negotiations. On the other hand, some analysts say China will use North Korea's nuclear issue as a leverage in its tense relations with the U.S., which will solidify Beijing-Pyongyang alliance and weaken South Korea's position. Cheong Wa Dae earlier said it has closely discussed Xi's North Korea visit with China. Was there any message exchanged between the two Koreas on denuclearization via the Chinese leader? If so, what was the substance of the exchange? What role do you expect China to play in the North's denuclearization through Xi's visit? (Yonhap)
ANSWER 11: Since March 2018, Chairman Kim Jong Un took part in 13 bilateral summits: five with China, three with the South, two with the United States, and one each with Russia, Singapore and Vietnam. My Government welcomes the fact that North Korea is expanding the scope of its contact with the international community. North Korea becoming a part of the international community constitutes the process of establishing peace.
The ROK and China frequently consult with each other about ways to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Chinese Government fully understands my Administration’s approach to the Korean Peninsula peace process, and we are in close cooperation. In this context, my Government expressed its opinion that it would be desirable for President Xi Jinping to visit North Korea first before a ROK-China summit. It is to create new momentum amid a lull after the North Korea-United States summit in Hanoi.
I hope that President Xi’s visit to North Korea last week will be a turning point that can help resume dialogues between the two Koreas and between North Korea and the United States. At the upcoming G20 summit, I will be able to meet with President Xi in person and hear about the results of his visit to the North.
Q 12. G-20
What kind of mediator roles do you plan to ask of the leaders of the U.S., China, Russia, Japan and other relevant countries at the G-20 summit amid the deadlocked nuclear negotiations between North Korea and the U.S.? (Kyodo)
ANSWER 12: The Korean Peninsula peace process has always progressed amid the cooperation and support of the international community. This is still true today. Denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula constitute a historic paradigm shift that demolishes the world’s last remaining Cold War rivalry. In that sense, I take cooperation with the international community very seriously, especially that with the countries directly concerned.
The Republic of Korea and its ally the United States are coordinating a common stance by closely exchanging opinions on all fronts, such as ways to resume dialogue with North Korea at an early date, denuclearization measures that North Korea has to take and corresponding measures to be taken in response. During President Trump’s visit to the Republic of Korea scheduled right after the G20 summit, there will be more in-depth discussions taking place.
China and Russia have continued to play constructive roles so far to peacefully resolve the Korean Peninsula issue. I hope that China and Russia will play specific parts in helping the North resume dialogue at an early stage.
Normalization of North Korea-Japan relations is a must in the process of establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. My Government supports the Japanese Government’s stance of pursuing dialogue with the North without preconditions and will actively provide support and cooperate to ensure that a North Korea-Japan summit takes place.
Q 13. South Korea's Economic Potential and Korean Peninsula Peace Process
Many foreign countries say South Korea has high economic potential. What is your opinion on such assessments? Please explain how you think the Korean Peninsula peace process will help realize the country's economic potential, promote prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and change the blueprint for the nation's future? (Yonhap)
ANSWER 13: The Republic of Korea is a dynamic country. The country advanced its economy, and at the same time democracy, in a very short period of time on the ruins of war. What is undermining and constraining that dynamism is the structure of the division. This is because conflict and confrontation caused by the division and the Cold War have countenanced corruption, privilege and injustice that put ideology above everything else. This is also because it restricts the people’s living space and imagination. The Korean Peninsula peace process is a new opportunity that can reinforce the dynamism inherent in the history of the Republic of Korea.
I am convinced that peace drives the economy. The Korean Peninsula peace process will greatly expand Korea’s economic territory by connecting the continent and ocean. Moreover, if the two Koreas develop into a single economic bloc, it will be able to form a single market with 80 million people, surpassing that of the United Kingdom, France and Italy and standing on par with Germany’s. It will be an opportunity for huge growth for the economy of not only the two Koreas but of the world.
The Republic of Korea has strong economic fundamentals and attractive investment conditions. “The Korea discount” brought on by the long political and military tension on the Korean Peninsula has been dissolving after the inter-Korean summits last year. Global credit rating agencies are maintaining the ROK’s sovereign credit rating at the country’s highest level. The spreads on the country’s foreign exchange equalization bonds are at historic lows while the credit risks of many countries are rising due to the global economic slowdown. Inbound foreign direct investments also hit a record high.
The revitalization of inter-Korean economic exchanges will contribute to creating a new order of cooperation that leads to peace and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and, moreover, into East Asia. The East Asia Railroad Community initiative encompassing six Northeast Asian nations and the United States, which I proposed last year, was developed based on this idea. The Railroad Community will be able to further develop into an energy community, an economic community and a mechanism for multilateral peace and security for East Asia.