Only a Unified Korea Can Survive in the Information Age
Kim Dae Jung is the president of South Korea.
SeoulThe welcome offered by Chairman Kim Jong Il and his hospitality
on my visit to Pyongyang in the early summer was beyond my expectations.
He went to the airport to personally receive me on arrival and also see
me off on my departure. One million citizens turned out in the streets
to greet me, which I am told was the largest turnout in the history of
the city. To me, this was an expression of love as members of one ethnic
In the course of the talks, there were times when I was desperate, but
I tried my level best with faithfulness. Eventually, Chairman Kim extended
substantial cooperation, and we were able to reach agreement on a range
of issues from visits by divided families to a "loose form of confederation"
on the Korean peninsula in the futurea concept that requires maintaining
two governments for the two sides as they are now and creating a conference
of ministers and an assembly with which the two sides can jointly solve
problems step by step.
We also talked about nuclear weapons and missile issues and the matter
of United States armed forces stationed in the South. Dialogue on these
subjects was very useful, and I was able to confirm that there are things
that have a bright prospect for resolution.
In short, a new age has dawned for our nation. We have reached a turning
point so that we can put an end to territorial division.
The Pyongyang people are the same as us, the same nation sharing the same
blood. Regardless of what they have been saying and acting outwardly,
they have a deep love and longing for their compatriots in the South.
That is quite natural because we lived as a unified nation for 1,300 years
before we were divided 55 years ago against our will.
It is impossible for us to continue to live separated physically and spiritually.
I was able to reconfirm this fact firsthand during my visit. That is why
I returned with the conviction that, sooner or later, we will become reconciled
with each other, cooperate and finally become unified.
I expressed my view to Chairman Kim that, in the waning years of the Chosen
Kingdom, when the people should have united and hastened modernization,
the country was splintered and turned away from modernization. In the
end, we reaped the sorrow of losing the country, resulting in 35 years
of Japanese colonial rule, the division of the country on August 15, 1945,
the Korean War and the confrontation across barbed wire. Thus, I asked,
didnt the Chosen rulers give the country 100 years of punishment?
Now, the world is entering into an age of the greatest revolutionary change
in the history of mankindthe age of knowledge and information. It
is also entering into a time of borderless and boundless economic competition.
How, I asked Chairman Kim, can we survive if we who are one people waste
our energy against each other? On the other hand, even if we cannot unify
the country right away, we can open the skies, roads and harbors; we can
come and go freely, cooperate with each other, develop the economy together
and have exchanges in culture and sports.
"Wouldnt the Korean education tradition and cultural creativity
be assets in the age of knowledge in the 21st century?" I asked.
Ours is no longer an age of imperialism when the Big Four powers rule
us. On the contrary, the Big Four powers are our markets, and we can benefit
At this time, if we dont become alert and North and South dont
cooperate with each other but fight instead, what would be our fate? Whatever
else happens, we must not stick to the ideas of communizing the South
or absorbing the North. Instead, I said, let us coexist and proceed on
the path toward unification. This is a time of opportunity for us to forge,
together, a first-rate nation in the 21st century.
Of course, none of this means that everything went smoothly in our talks
or that there is nothing to worry about. This is only the beginning. It
will take time: We need patience, and we need devotion. We also need to
look at things from the point of view of the other side
There should be not the slightest wavering in the resolve on the part
of the Republic of Korea to maintain national security and sovereignty.
But we must ultimately go on the path to unification by solving one thing
at a time, taking the easiest things first while cooperating with each
other and giving consideration to the other side.
Korea is one country with one ethnic family. Koreans of both North and
South have the same behavior and lifestyles. But it is also true that
South and North Koreans have lived under different political and social
systems for decades. These gaps cannot be narrowed down within a short
But the North will no longer attempt unification by force and, at the
same time, we will not do any harm to the North. In short, the most important
outcome of the summit was that there is no longer going to be any war
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