North and South Korea Move Towards Reunification
Luisa Chainferber 5/3/18
North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean president Moon Jae-in met on April 27 for the first face-to-face inter-Korea talks since 2007. According to CNN, “the pair signed an agreement on a range of measures aimed at reducing tensions and perhaps one day reuniting the Korean Peninsula.” The Korean summit also included talks over North Korea’s possible denuclearization, and Moon’s official visit to North Korea, which will take place later this year.
The meeting made history as the first time a North Korean leader has visited South Korean territory since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Kim and Moon issued a joint statement expressing their commitment to the “complete denuclearization” of the peninsula, calling for the end of the Korean War, and heralding a “new era of peace”, says CNN.
Moreover, Kim Jong-un declared that by “[using] one language, one culture, one history, South and North Korea will be reunited as one country, thus enjoying everlasting peace and prosperity,” reports The Telegraph. President Moon expressed similar sentiments, and guaranteed that “there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula.”
Despite the leaders’ optimism, the Smithsonian indicates that several challenges make unification unlikely to occur in the next few years. A 2017 survey from Seoul National University’s Institute for Peace and Unification Studies reported, “2.3 percent of South Korean respondents believe that unification is possible within 5 years.” The research also indicated “24.7 percent of South Koreans don’t think that unification is possible.” In addition, the magazine argued that there have been three attempts at reunification in the last three decades, each ending in failures.
Furthermore, Time also predicted that reunification would incur several issues, such as an ideological conflict between the two different political systems, debates about economic integration, and social problems such as unemployment, due in part to different education and competition levels of North and South Koreans citizens, who would join a common job market.
In addition, The DenverChannel emphasized that cultural differences would also make unification difficult. “The society of South Korea is individualistic, competitive and very pop-culture oriented. North Korea, on the other hand, is collectivist and militaristic.” Accordingly, many young South Koreans are not interested in unification as they believe it is unrealistic or do not want to suffer the financial burden that it will create.
Nonetheless, leaders from the international community responded positively to the Korean summit, according to The Telegraph. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated, “We strongly hope that North Korea will take concrete action through this meeting and a summit between the U.S. and North Korea.” Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, called the summit “very positive news.” U.S. President Donald Trump also celebrated the meeting, and tweeted that “[after] a furious year of missile launches and nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea is now taking place.” Trump will meet Kim Jong-un in late May.
Meanwhile, China welcomed North Korea’s moves to improve ties to both the U.S. and South Korea. China’s top diplomat, State Councilor Wang Yi, visited North Korea on May 3 after the summit. Wang expressed support for the end of the state of war on the Korean peninsula and approved North Korea’s shift of focus from nuclear weapons to economic development. As Channel NewsAsia reports, Wang stated that Beijing desires to improve its communication with North Korea and seeks to make a positive impact in the search for a political solution on the Korean Peninsula.