Peace through a Myriad of Acts
By Moon Jae-in
SEOUL – Peace is not a state of tranquility. Peace can come about only through dialogue and numerous meetings, by taking bold actions that make the impossible possible, and by persistently looking for reasons why peace is preferable.
I like forests. If you take a close look, you will discover that they are constantly on the move. Leaves conduct photosynthesis, ants march in single file transporting food, and tensions between game animals and predators perpetually run high. Forests are peaceful because myriad interconnected actors rely on one another even while they compete.
Mahatma Gandhi said that, “There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.” As his words suggest, peace is about making vociferous self-assertions while harboring aspirations. It also comes in the course of expressing concurring and dissenting opinions, and it cannot be obtained by any individual alone. Think of a football match: No matter how much we root for our team, the game will never commence unless we also recognize the opposing side. Peace exists amid the rowdiness of a football stadium.
I believe that peace begins the moment the words “Let’s create peace” are uttered. It would be desirable if peace could arrive after a patient, silent wait, but it will not come without action. The possibility of war on the Korean Peninsula was a real concern up until the end of 2017. However, the Korean people wanted peace, and so I sent North Korea a message of peace from Berlin. The North responded positively by participating in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, opening the door for multiple inter-Korean and United States-North Korea summits.
Today, the peninsula is witnessing its greatest peacemaking efforts. Even if there are no visible developments, the trend toward peace is flowing vigorously below the surface. Not a single pistol is left in the Joint Security Area, and excavations to find the remains of those who died in the war began after guard posts in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) were torn down. So, peace is inching forward.
Nonetheless, more action is needed to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula. The North Korean nuclear and missile issues have yet to be resolved, and the North is still cautious about engaging fully. North Korea and the US are both demanding that the other take action first. If the North continues to implement denuclearization sincerely, the international community, too, should correspondingly show its efforts. Fortunately, the shared trust between the US and North Korean leaders remains intact, and their commitment to dialogue is unchanged. It is time for actions to be taken in response to actions, and the international community should join forces in this effort.
At the last United Nations General Assembly, I declared three principles for peace on the Korean Peninsula: zero tolerance for war, a mutual security guarantee, and co-prosperity.
Based on these principles, and before the international community, I proposed transforming the DMZ across the midriff of the Korean Peninsula into an international peace zone. The DMZ is a colossal green zone that stretches 250 kilometers (155 miles) from east to west and four kilometers from north to south. This tragic space – spawned by 70 years of military confrontation – has, paradoxically, become a pristine ecological treasure trove. It also has become a symbolic space steeped in history, embracing both the yearning for peace and the tragedy of division that is embodied by the Joint Security Area, guard posts, and barbed-wire fences.
I believe that if the international community collectively removes the 380,000 landmines buried in the DMZ, and the UN and other international organizations open offices in the zone, these steps can play the role of a security guarantee on the Korean Peninsula. Transforming the DMZ in this way would institutionally and realistically guarantee North Korea’s security and simultaneously bring permanent peace to South Korea. It would serve as an opportunity to help establish a substantive peace regime and achieve denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula while receiving support from the international community.
Korea dreams of becoming a bridging nation. Geopolitically, it is the only country in the world surrounded by four major powers. In the past, the Korean Peninsula was regarded as the periphery of both the continent and the ocean, and sometimes was reduced to an arena in which world powers competed. That was the painful history Korea experienced. But if the Korean Peninsula were to achieve peace, Korea would be in a position to connect the continent and ocean, and lead efforts to establish a peaceful, prosperous order in Northeast Asia. The Korean Peninsula serving as such a bridge would benefit ourselves, Northeast Asia, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as the global peace order.
By playing a role of bridge, Korea intends to bring about a people-centered community of peace and mutual prosperity. The New Northern Policy is testimony to Korea’s continental aspirations. Korea aims to expand the foundation of cooperation to include not only China and Russia but also Central Asia and Europe, and to establish cornerstones for multilateral cooperation and security through the East Asian Railroad Community initiative. Korea’s New Southern Policy, meanwhile, attests to its maritime ambition. This will help elevate Korea’s relations with ASEAN and India to the same level as those it has with the major powers surrounding the peninsula, and develop a cooperative partnership of common prosperity with them.
Through peace, Korea intends to walk the path that ultimately leads to a peace-driven economy. Reconnecting severed railroads and roads between North and South is the first step toward becoming a bridging nation that leads peace and prosperity in East Asia. The peace economy will create a virtuous circle where the two Koreas prosper together through economic cooperation with surrounding countries by ushering in an era when division no longer impedes peace and prosperity, which will in turn solidify peace.
Korea has benefited immensely from the international community. It was liberated from colonial rule in the same year that the UN was founded, and later was able to overcome the ravages of war with aid from the UN and the international community. Now, Korea intends to contribute to international peace and prosperity with a sense of responsibility commensurate with its development. The peace economy will expedite humanity’s dream of a world in which everyone prospers together.
No matter how desperately peace is desired, Korea cannot afford to race ahead on its own. It has counterparts and must move within the international order. Working-level negotiations and a third summit between North Korea and the US would be the most critical juncture in the entire process of achieving denuclearization and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. Support from the international community and concerted actions are needed now more than ever. The wave of peace that began at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics will flow steadfastly into the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. In addition, the two Koreas have agreed to cooperate on a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. I therefore ask the international community for its support in that regard.
I am confident that if dialogue and corresponding actions continue, we will need each other more and peace will eventually come. I hope that we can talk more often about peace, advance our respective ideas, and take various actions while moving steadily toward it. It is my hope that the international community will come together and offer unceasing advice until the Korean Peninsula, finally at peace, can shake off the misfortunes spawned by division and conflict, and provide humanity with a new beacon of hope.